News: Link between hormonal contraceptives and depression
A new study published in Jama has linked the use of hormonal birth control and depression. Researchers in Denmark analysed 14 years worth of data that involved over 1 million women and found that there was an 80 percent increase in relative risk amongst women who take combined hormonal contraceptives. Whilst these findings appear extremely alarming, it is important to consider that these figures involve relative risk, and the results do not indicate that 80% of women taking combined hormonal contraceptives will suffer depression. Instead, an 80% increase in relative risk means that if 100 people who don’t take hormonal contraceptives develop depression, then 180 people who take hormonal contraceptives will develop depression.
When looking at absolute risks, the authors concluded that approximately 0.5% of women who started taking hormonal contraception would develop depression that would not have done so if they have not started taking birth control. Considering that millions of people worldwide use birth control, research which demonstrates a link between hormonal contraceptives and depression is alarming. But whilst 0.5% of all the people started on hormonal contraception each year is a significant amount of women, further research is warranted to identify those groups that may be more susceptible to develop depression related to hormonal contraception. The study suggests that women can respond very differently to hormones and we will need a greater understanding of which groups of women are more susceptible to suffer depression in relation to hormonal contraceptives. Until we have the full picture, it is difficult to a effectively amend prescribing practices but, at the very least, healthcare professionals should be more wary than ever about prescribing hormonal contraceptives to women with a history of depression