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The mini-pill and depression – should I be worried?

Posted in: Women's Health 09 Aug, 2012

The mini-pill is often prescribed to women who can’t take the regular pill. However, recent research would suggest that women who take the mini-pill could be more prone to depression compared to women who took contraceptives that contained both progestogen and oestrogen. Does this mean that we should now use the progestogen-only pill with extra caution? If so, what alternatives do women have who can’t use the regular version of the pill?

When it comes to oral contraception there are two different types, those that contain both progestogen and oestrogen, which are most commonly used and those that only contain progestogen which include pills like Cerazette and Micronor. The ones with both progestogen and oestrogen are known as combined pills and were actually develop after pills that only contain progestogen. Oral forms of contraception are used by millions of women all over Europe and although there is a slight risk of side effects, the benefits mostly outweigh the dangers of this exceedingly popular method of contraception. With that said though, the pill has improved significantly over the last three decades, it’s also one of the most tested medications available to date, because it’s so widely used.

Women use the oestrogen and progestogen pills because they are believed to be marginally more reliable, but can also help regulate your period better. However, not everybody should be using oestrogen on a daily basis, which is why these women will often be recommended the mini-pill as an alternative. You are most likely using the mini-pill, if you are sensitive to oestrogen, get migraines, have high blood pressure, are currently breastfeeding or if you are over 35 and smoke on a regular basis. So women with any of the above conditions can enjoy the convenience of oral contraception without the worry of being at an increased risk of side effects as a result. Plus, simply from a practical point of view, taking the mini-pill means that you don’t have a seven day break that could through off your pill-taking schedule.

The research that was carried out by researchers in Australia and Norway was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. They looked at women between the ages of 20 and 50, which showed that women who were on a progestogen-only pill were three times more likely to experience mood problems than women who were using the combined pill. This is believed to be the case because progestogen had an effect on glutamate, which is a compound that tends to be present in elevated levels in people who have serious depression and bipolar disorder.

However, I can’t help but question studies such as these. From the actual report in the Daily Mail there is no information available on whether this research has been verified or taken any further than this initial study, so it’s therefore important not to become too concerned, but speak to your doctor if you are worried. Most contraceptives have the ability to affect your mood; this is because they contain artificial hormones that perform regulatory functions. If you feel that the particular treatment you are using is influencing you in a bad way, there are many different types of contraceptives to choose from, however alternative options are more limited in terms of the mini pill. Pills aren’t the only option though, as there are hormonal contraception that only contains progestogen that can be administered in different ways such as the Depo-Provera which is an injection.

list of mini-pills

It’s a fact that prescription treatments can cause side effects, and this is why they are only available on prescription, so that your doctor will be able to monitor your use of the treatment to reduce the likelihood of a treatment harming you. It’s always advised that you familiarise yourself with any side effects you are likely to experience before taking a treatment, but it often seems like the media reports on the side effects of treatments as if there was a big conspiracy to conceal them. Medications all have their benefits and drawbacks and treatment often tends to be a balancing act between the two.

Yes, there might be an elevated risk of depression with the mini-pill, but this requires further research and it doesn’t seem like it’s presenting an immediate threat to anyone who is using it. When taking any prescription medication however, it’s advised to do so with caution and monitor how your body reacts to it, no matter what you are taking.

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