Lots of women get irritable, depressed, or feel out of sorts just before their monthly periods. Those can be symptoms of a common condition called premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
How Hormonal Contraceptives Work
Is There a Link Between Birth Control and Emotions?
Women have complained about mood-related changes like depression and anxiety ever since the pill came out in 1960. The newest generation of pills have lower doses of hormones. Even so, a sizeable number of women still quit the pill because of side effects.
During a typical 28-day menstrual cycle, estrogen levels reach their peak around day 14. That’s when many women feel best emotionally and physically. Most hormonal contraceptives smooth this mountain-shaped hormonal cycle into an even line for the first 21 days. Then the levels of estrogen and progestin plunge during the final 7 days.
Limited research suggests that compared with women who don’t use hormonal birth control, those who do are more likely report feeling depressed, anxious, and angry. But those symptoms don’t make the list of common side effects. Other studies have turned up no significant link between hormone combinations or concentrations and differences in mood. Still more research has found that women on the pill and those taking dummy pills report similar symptoms, suggesting that any effects they noticed were unrelated to the actual pills.
Doctors sometimes prescribe hormonal contraceptives to ease the discomfort that practically every woman notices at one time or another during their monthly periods.
Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome can include:
- Angry outbursts
- Crying spells
- Feeling down or depressed
- Trouble sleeping
- Tender breasts
- Aches and pains
- Bloating or weight gain
The FDA has approved a specific type of hormonal birth control pill -- containing drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol -- to treat a more serious form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder. But the hormones may work better to ease physical symptoms than mood-related ones. It also can take some trial and error for your doctors to hit on the right medication and dosage.
If scientists can’t firmly connect the dots between birth control hormones and emotional turbulence, why do some women believe there’s a link?
When to See a Doctor
If your mood swings are mild or moderate, exercise, healthier eating, relaxation, and other lifestyle changes may bring you relief. See your doctor if you feel depressed, feel no energy, or have other severe symptoms that interfere with your daily life.