Many women choose oral contraceptives for the relative ease of use and effectiveness. But one thing that is often overlooked is the link to mental health, especially anxiety and depression. While many women do not report any problems, enough women do make this something to be aware of when choosing your contraceptive method.
About oral contraceptives
Oral contraceptives are a form of hormonal birth control. They use a chemical version of female sex hormones (progesterone and estrogen) in some combination to prevent ovulation and thus prevent pregnancy. But with any prescription medication, there are some risks along with the benefits.
Oral contraceptives can deplete your body of several nutrients. These include B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. Vitamin B6 is needed for your body to make serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin helps to regulate your mood and melatonin helps to regulate sleep. Magnesium and zinc also help to regulate melatonin levels and improve sleep and calm the nervous system, thus making anxiety less likely. We know that vitamin C is important for immunity, but it also helps reduce levels of stress hormones.
Effects on the brain
Like many areas of women's health, studies of women taking oral contraceptives are relatively rare. One preliminary study showed a smaller hypothalamus in women taking oral contraceptives. The hypothalamus is the area of the brain that controls feelings of anger and depression.
The cause of these changes is not yet known. but may be due to the hormones in the oral contraceptives, or the nutrient depletion mentioned earlier.
Another study noted increased activation of the prefrontal cortex. This affects how women process memory and emotions especially those related to negative and stressful events.