Impacts of Hormonal Contraception on your Mental Health

Rates of anxiety disorders and depression are continuing to rise- world-wide, with greater prevalence in women compared to men. The prevalence of anxiety and depression in females is usually twice as great in those aged 14-25 years, yet prior to puberty rates of anxiety and depression are similar among boys and girls.

What tends to happen around this age?

Although there are other considerations to take into each and every individual case we cannot ignore that fact that during our peak reproductive years, mental health disorders are at an all-time high.

Now, two thirds of women in Australia use some form of hormonal contraception, for various reasons such as PMS, period pain, contraception, acne, and other reproductive conditions.

Research has shown that female sex hormones influence mood and It’s no secret that there are psychological side effects of hormonal contraception, in fact the main reason for discontinuation of hormonal contraception are mood complaints.

What does the pill do?

The primary aim of hormonal contraception (depending on the form) is to inhibit follicular development while for others it is to either inhibit ovulation or change the cervical mucus to inhibit sperm penetration. It does this by providing the body with dosages of synthetic hormones and inhibiting our own natural secretion of hormones such as luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. Inhibition of these hormones also changes our bodies natural secretion of estrogen and progesterone.

So what is the relationship between hormones and mood?

Female sex hormones are extremely important for our mood, they play a huge role in the regulation of our neurotransmitters- which are chemicals released by the brain that regulate our mood.

Some examples:

  • Serotonin- also known as the happy brain hormone, necessary in adequate amounts for a stable and happy mood. Often low levels are associated with anxiety, depression, anger, loss of pleasure, digestive disorders, carbohydrate cravings, insomnia, low self esteem, migraines, seasonal defective disorders, constipation, worry, obsessive thoughts, irritability, phobias and fluctuations in energy.

  • Dopamine- regarded as the reward, satisfaction and motivation hormone. Low levels of dopamine can make you feel tired, moody, unable to concentrate and apathetic. Low levels are also associated with depression, lack of energy, ow libido, mood swings, Obsessive compulsive disorder, difficulty losing weight, cravings for caffeine and other stimulants, lack of focus and concentration, memory loss and inattention and addiction.

  • GABA- also known as our relaxing hormone that can put on the breaks of the brain, soak up stress hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol and act as our bodies natural Valium. Low levels are often associated with anxiety, fears, excessive worrying, racing thoughts, heart palpitations, cravings for carbohydrates, drugs or alcohol, muscle tension, panic attacks, inability to relax and burn out.

How does hormones influence brain chemicals?

To name a few….

  • Estrogen is a regulator of serotonin levels, thus when low levels of estrogen arise in menopause often anxiety and low mood can present.

  • Progesterone facilitates GABA neurotransmission, thus plays an important role in anxiety prevention.

  • Estrogen can increase serotonin levels and progesterone increases serotonin neurotransmission

  • Estrogen increases dopamine

  • Often lower levels of progesterone are therefore associated with lower levels of GABA, dopamine, and serotonin

Synthetic hormones from the OCP have quite the opposing effects:

  • They act on our bodies estrogen and progesterone receptors and downstream our bodies own natural hormones

  • Reduce endogenous testosterone which can reduce availability of testosterone leading to hormonal imbalances such as estrogen dominance OR endogenous estrogen and progesterone leading to an increase in testosterone both having feminine or masculinising effects on the brain, respectively.

  • Supresses Vitamin B6 (and other nutrients, zinc, folate, B12, Magnesium, vitamin C and folate) metabolism which is a vital nutrient needed to create serotonin, dopamine and GABA

  • Reduce serotonin

Overall, clinical experience, literature and research has established many health risks and concerns of hormonal contraception including cardiovascular disease, blood clotting disorders and affective mood disorders and depression.

Naturopathically, we aim to look at the individual and seek out the contributing factors which may be causing low mood, anxiety, high stress OR hormonal disturbances. We use natural treatments, diet and lifestyle practices to help achieve this. Unfortunately, there will be no “quick fixes- one medication for all treatment” as we treat no case the same.

Want some help?

Get in touch with us today and get it sorted!

You can book your appointment online HERE or call the clinic on 52982642.

References:

Dahia, V (2016). Alchemy of the mind: Manage your mind naturally. BusyBird Publishing, Eltham, Victoria.

Hall, K. S., Steinberg, J. R., Cwiak, C. A., Allen, R. H., & Marcus, S. M. (2015). Contraception and mental health: a commentary on the evidence and principles for practice. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 212(6), 740–746. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2014.12.010

Zettermark, S., Perez Vicente, R., & Merlo, J. (2018). Hormonal contraception increases the risk of psychotropic drug use in adolescent girls but not in adults: A pharmacoepidemiological study on 800 000 Swedish women. PloS one, 13(3), e0194773. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0194773

Tanika is a degree qualified Naturopath and graduated from the Southern School of Natural Therapies. Her area of clinical interest lies in mental health such as anxiety, depression and general stress. She believes in the concept of food as medicine and always takes into account the holistic picture when treating her clients, exuding they get the best outcomes possible. Tanika is available for consultation Mondays, Saturdays and Tuesdays by request.

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