Medically reviewed by Peter Weiss, MD
Hormonal birth control can cause mood changes. Synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are contained in birth control. Some people taking birth control may experience mood changes, including depression, because these hormones affect brain function.
Learn about birth control, mood changes, and how to support your mental health while on birth control.
Birth Control, Mood Swings, and Hormones: What’s the Link?
Many types of birth control, including pills, most intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants, shots, patches, and rings, work by releasing hormones into the body. These synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone hormones can reduce the chances of pregnancy by preventing ovulation (releasing an egg).
Birth control can affect your mood because the hormones found in birth control affect brain function and the release of mood-regulating chemicals. Chemical brain changes can lead to mood swings.
Why Does Birth Control Affect Everyone Differently?
Birth control affects everyone differently since bodies and brains respond uniquely based on genetics, age, lifestyle, environment, and health history. For example, some people are more sensitive to shifts in hormone levels and are at a higher risk of developing depression after starting hormonal birth control.
It is essential to consider all factors and consult a healthcare provider, such as an obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn), when considering methods for preventing pregnancy. Discussing your health history and goals can help you make the best decision to minimize side effects such as mood changes.
Mood Symptoms When Starting Birth Control
Birth control medications, like other medications, may cause various side effects. With birth control, the side effects are most prominent when first starting it and typically decrease or resolve after a few months. For instance, mood changes and depression are more likely to happen shortly after starting birth control, and the risk goes down after two years of use.
There can be physical changes, too. For example, birth control can lead to insomnia and feeling tired. Physical side effects can include acne, bloating, headaches, weight gain, and more. While these side effects may not last, it is important to discuss any severe or long-term effects with a healthcare provider to determine the best options.
How to Feel Less Moody on Birth Control
Although it does not happen to everyone who takes birth control, mood changes are possible and can be unpleasant. You can take measures to prevent and improve moodiness, even while continuing with birth control. Options include increased self-care, relaxation, and lifestyle changes.
Birth Control Options Less Likely to Cause Mood and Other Side Effects
Estrogen has neuroprotective (brain-protecting) properties, so birth control options with no hormones (e.g., copper IUD, condoms, surgery, or cycle tracking) or those containing estrogen and progesterone (combination birth control) are less likely to cause mood changes. Progesterone-only birth control (e.g., the mini pill) is more likely to adversely affect mood, especially in people with a history of anxiety and depression.
Double Down on Self-Care
Self-care is essential in general, and it becomes even more so when experiencing mood changes related to birth control. Enjoyable activities such as spending time with friends and family, listening to music, and participating in hobbies can help reduce adverse mood changes. For example, art activities have been shown to decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 75%.
Stress has been shown to adversely affect physical and mental health, including increased mood challenges and depression risk. Managing stress through regular relaxation exercises, stress management techniques, and support from a healthcare provider can help reduce mood changes due to birth control.
Treat Underlying Health Concerns
Underlying medical conditions can lead to mood challenges and depression. For example, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can lead to depression. Other conditions affecting mood include autoimmune diseases, cancer, and sleep disorders. Birth control can increase these issues, and treating the underlying health concerns can help alleviate the symptoms.
Focus on a Healthy Lifestyle
Many lifestyle choices can help to improve mood, including proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Physical activity has been found to help balance hormones among women. Prioritizing physical movement, nutritious foods, and sleep while minimizing processed and sugary foods can help alleviate mood symptoms.
Do Your Moods Stabilize on Birth Control?
Moods can stabilize while on birth control. While 25% of women with depression experience mood symptoms that get worse with birth control, 14% experience improved symptoms. Always consult a healthcare provider any time mood symptoms increase, especially after starting a new medication.
Underlying Mood Disorders and Conditions
Over 60% of women with a medical history of psychiatric conditions experience increased mood challenges with hormonal birth control. Similarly, symptoms of anxiety and other health conditions may increase.
People who have been diagnosed with or suspect mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder, or any other health concern, should discuss this with a healthcare provider before starting hormonal birth control.
When to Consider Stopping Birth Control Due to Mood Swings
Nearly half of people who stop taking birth control do so because of side effects, with mood and psychological side effects topping the list. Anyone experiencing depression or other mood or psychological changes should speak with a healthcare provider about using a different method to prevent pregnancy.
Reasons to consider stopping birth control include:
Not feeling how you want to feel
Experiencing adverse side effects and/or symptoms that interfere with daily life
Having side effects that are long-lasting or severe
Being concerned about the changes you're going through
How to Stop Taking Birth Control
Women have reported experiencing symptoms such as increased depression and mood changes after stopping birth control, but research is limited. Consult a healthcare provider before discontinuing any medication, including birth control, to ensure a safe transition off of the medication.
While it is generally OK to stop taking birth control at any time during the month, it can be beneficial to finish a month's supply of birth control pills before stopping to make it easier to track your menstrual cycle.
It is possible to experience mood changes, including depression, after starting hormonal birth control. This is because estrogen and progesterone—the hormones that birth control mimics—affect brain function.
Some ways to address mood changes with birth control include continued stress management, increasing self-care, treating any possible underlying conditions, prioritizing a healthy lifestyle, or switching to a different birth control method. Check with a healthcare provider regarding mood changes.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.