Hormonal birth control does more than prevent pregnancy.
People on hormonal birth control often experience less painful cramping during their periods, have predictable menstrual cycles, find that their acne clears up, and have a reduced risk of ovarian cysts and uterine cancer.
Birth control can also alleviate premenstrual syndrome (PMS) by moderating the hormone levels in the body.
Even with all these health benefits, in addition to preventing pregnancy, some experience side effects that can be minor but also substantial, depending on the person.
In this article, I’ll discuss birth control side effects and whether birth control causes mood swings.
I’ll explain what causes mood changes due to birth control and how to manage birth control mood swings.
Finally, I’ll also explain when it’s time to see a doctor about those mood swings.
Birth Control Side Effects
Hormonal birth control is known to cause side effects in many, but for most, the side effects dissipate after two or three months of use.
However, new birth control users should be aware that there are some possible side effects.
Spotting or Breakthrough Bleeding
Spotting, or breakthrough bleeding, are the most common side effects of hormonal birth control.
As the body adjusts to the fluctuation of hormones and the uterus lining thins, breakthrough bleeding will sometimes occur.
It can be managed by taking birth control pills at the same time each day to help regulate the body’s system.
Breast tenderness can be an uncomfortable result of starting to take birth control pills or other hormonal birth control, but it will subside after a few weeks or months.
To keep breast pain to a minimum, wear a bra that provides plenty of support. Breasts will sometimes grow larger while on birth control as well.
Fluid retention while on birth control may feel like you’ve gained weight or are experiencing uncomfortable bloating.
The correlation between weight gain and hormonal birth control is still not proven, but if you’re retaining water, it can definitely add a few pounds on the scale.
Headaches or migraines
Birth control can cause headaches or help relieve them.
For those who have migraines, the hormones in birth control can help to alleviate the pain, which can be a great relief.
However, those who have never been prone to headaches may find that they start having headaches when they begin taking on birth control.
Some rare but severe side effects of birth control pills are:
- Blood clots
- Raised blood pressure
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
Does Birth Control Make You Moody?
If a woman is prone to depression and mood swings, birth control may increase her tendency towards these things.
The Harvard Study on Moods and Cycles found that those with a history of depression were more likely to experience mood swings than those with no experience with depressive episodes.
If there is a history of depression, a woman needs to inform her physician so they can monitor any increase in depressed feelings or behavior while on birth control.
In a different study by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (1994-2008), data was collected from 6,654 sexually active nonpregnant women, or people who identify as a woman, between the ages of 18–34.
Evidence was found that birth control did the exact opposite and reduced the symptoms of depression.
Every person will responds differently to the hormones found in birth control.
You should discuss alternative birth control methods with their doctor if there are alternative methods if symptoms of depression or mood swings persist.
What Causes Mood Changes?
The main culprit of mood changes and depression due to birth control is hormones.
The birth control pill works by regulating both estrogen and progesterone in the body.
Almost half of all women, who people who identify is a woman, go off the birth control pill within one year due to its side effects, particularly mood swings and depression.
It’s essential to understand what causes those problems. The pill can affect the HPA-Axis in the brain due to elevated cortisol levels.
These high cortisol levels result in a reduced ability to deal with stress, leading to the mental health problems so many experience while taking the pill.
Another way the pill can affect mood and state of mind is by inhibiting the stimulation of GABA receptors in the brain, which are responsible for relaxation and the process of reducing brain activity to enable those to decompress.
Mental-health-related issues, including panic disorder, depression, and the mood-related symptoms of PMS, typically are associated with low GABA stimulation.
With its low dose of estrogen, the pill can reduce the reward process in the brain, which may result in any of these challenges.
You may be more likely to have mood-related problems on the birth control pill if:
- You have a history of depression or mental illness.
- Your mother (or another family member) had mental health side effects from taking the pill. You are taking progestin-only pills (i.e., mini pills).
- Your pill is a multiphasic dose (i.e., an increasing dosage of hormones during the cycle).
How to Manage Mood Changes
If you need to manage birth control-related mood swings, the following actions will help you to do so.
Increase Supplement Intake
Birth control reduces the absorption of important vitamins and nutrients, including magnesium and antioxidants like vitamin E and C that support mental well-being.
In addition, vitamins B2, B6, and B12; folic acid; selenium; and zinc can become depleted as well.
Because of this depletion, it’s important to take the appropriate supplements to replenish their body’s reserves.
They should speak with their doctor about their best option for getting their necessary dosages of these essential vitamins and minerals to boost mood and avoid depressive episodes.
Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating the right foods, including complex carbohydrates, can boost serotonin levels in the brain, which can help moderate mood swings caused by birth control.
Those foods include:
- 100% whole-wheat breads (no white flour)
You should avoid eating foods that cause inflammation, such as sugars and processed foods.
Get Enough Exercise
Exercise is a great way to increase your energy levels, which can go a long way into counteracting depression and mood swings.
Even a 15-minute walk once or twice daily can help.
While it can be challenging to get up and move when you’re feeling down, but it will certainly help if you can get out and get some fresh air.
Have questions about birth control and mood swings? Chat with a doctor through K Health.Get Started
When to See a Doctor
You may think your mood swings or depression are an unavoidable side effect of birth control, but it’s necessary to speak to your doctor about whether the medication you’re on is the right one for you or if you should try something different.
For example, there are three types of birth control pills: monophasic (the same dosage every day), multiphasic (a changing dosage throughout the month), and the mini pill (a progesterone-only option).
Your doctor may prescribe a different type for you if your mood swings and depression are too much for you to manage.
Visit your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Anxiousness all the time
- Mood swings that are affect your life
- Thoughts of suicide
- Physical symptoms, such as severe headaches or migraines
How K Health Can Help
Did you know you can get affordable virtual primary care with K Health?
Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes.
K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and is based on 20 years of clinical data.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.