Birth control pill use in teen years could increase risk of depression, UBC study says
Birth control pills. File photo
Young women who use oral contraceptives could be more likely to develop depression as an adult, a new study out of the University of British Columbia has found.
In particular, it's teen oral contraceptive use that raised a red flag, as researchers found teens who took the pills were 1.7 times more likely to be clinically depressed as an adult. That figure was compared to women who started taking birth control pills as an adult and those who had never taken birth control pills.
"Our findings suggest that the use of oral contraceptives during adolescence may have an enduring effect on a woman's risk for depression – even years after she stops using them," said Christine Anderl, the study's first author and a UBC psychology postdoctoral fellow in a news release.
"Adolescence is an important period for brain development. Previous animal studies have found that manipulating sex hormones, especially during important phases of brain development, can influence later behaviour in a way that is irreversible."
This is the first study to consider the long-term, depression-related risks of oral contraception use. Researchers looked at data from a survey of 1,236 women in the U.S. The study controlled for factors that have been previously used to link birth control pill use and depression including age at onset of menstruation, age of first sexual intercourse and current oral contraceptive use.
However researchers did say that this relationship between the two has not been able to prove that birth control pill use causes depression.
"Millions of women worldwide use oral contraceptives, and they are particularly popular among teenagers," said Frances Chen, the study's senior author and UBC psychology associate professor.
"While we strongly believe that providing women of all ages with access to effective methods of birth control is and should continue to be a major global health priority, we hope that our findings will promote more research on this topic, as well as more informed dialogue and decision-making about the prescription of hormonal birth control to adolescents."