Birth Control Pill May Relieve PMS Depression
Study Shows Oral Contraceptives May Help Curb Mood Swings From Premenstrual Syndrome
May 25, 2005 (Atlanta) -- Many women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) mood
problems worry that birth control pills may increase their sensitivity to
hormonal changes that make them feel down and out. Now researchers say the
opposite may actually be true.
A study suggests taking oral contraceptives for as little as two months can
curb PMS-related depression -- even in women not getting relief from standard
"Many women fear that the birth control pill can make you depressed, but
we found it's actually helpful," says researcher Hadine Joffe, MD, director
of endocrine studies in the perinatal and reproductive psychiatry clinical
research program at Harvard Medical School.
That's an "important finding," says Jovita Crasta, MD, chief of
community psychiatry at South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y.
"Even one small study that shows that hormones will not cause depression
will help women to stay on their birth control," she tells WebMD.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric
The study included 17 women who were experiencing bouts of depression in the
weeks prior to their menstrual period -- the time of PMS, in other words. The
women had been on antidepressant medications for at least two months prior to
the study's start, and none suffered from depression outside of PMS.
All the women were put on the Yasmin birth control pill, which consists of
three weeks of an estrogen-progestin hormone preparation, followed by one week
of a placebo pill. Some of the women were given estrogen alone during this
After two months, depression scores on a standardized test had dropped an
average of 80% and PMS scores had fallen by about 40%, she says.
Giving the women extra estrogen in the final week didn't make a difference
one way or the other, Joffe says.
She suspects that the birth control pill made the hormone levels in the
brain more stable.
"Normally, hormones levels go up and down, up and down," she tells
WebMD, "and that's thought to cause the mood swings and depression of PMS.
"Being on the birth control pill stops the fluctuation."