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Study finds the Birth Control Pill Has a Pretty Terrible Impact on Women’s Wellbeing

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study — considered the “gold standard” for clinical trials — found that oral contraceptives reduced quality of life, mood and physical wellbeing in previously healthy women, Science Alert reports. On the up side, this study didn’t find evidence of increases in depression symptoms.

It’s interesting that increased depressive symptoms didn’t show up, as it has in others, with as much as a 40 percent increased risk of developing depression with certain pills. What’s more, the highest risk was among adolescents.

Birth control pills are the most popular form of contraception among U.S. women. They're taken by 16 percent of this population, while just over 7 percent use long-acting reversible forms of contraception, such as a hormonal intrauterine device or implant. What all these methods have in common is that they contain or release synthetic forms of hormones, such as estrogen and progestin (a form of progesterone), which work to prevent pregnancy in various ways.

While the intention is to not get pregnant, the side effects for some women can be devastating to their quality of life. In one study a 31-year-old woman experienced gradual improvement of her depressive symptoms after she stopped using the vaginal ring. However, "a sudden and acute worsening occurred" shortly after she started using a combined birth control pill.

From an increased risk of cervical and breast cancers to thinner bones, fatal blood clots, weight gain and even long-term sexual dysfunction oral contraceptives have potential health risks.

The bottom line is the CDC reports that 30 percent of women who have used the pill and nearly half of women using other hormonal contraception methods stopped their use due to "dissatisfaction," which was most often caused by side effects. This underscores the need for women to discuss your options, including non-hormonal strategies, thoroughly with your doctor before you decide on the best contraceptive method for you.
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