In September, JAMA Psychiatry published a Danish study that found a correlation between the use of hormonal birth control and being diagnosed with clinical depression. The study tracked hormonal birth control use and prescription of antidepressants over six years for over a million women. They found that women who were on hormonal birth control—be it the pill or a hormonal IUD or vaginal ring—were significantly more likely to be prescribed antidepressants.
Since the news broke, many women reported feeling vindicated that science is finally catching up to their lived experience. “I’d used the pill for ten years,” says Holly Grigg-Spall, author of Sweetening the Pill. “One particular kind, Yasmin, had huge side effects —psychological effects, depression, anxiety, panic attacks. I didn’t make the connection between what was going on with me and the pill for two years.”
The study found a particularly strong correlation between teenage birth control users and depression: there was an 80 percent increase risk for teens taking birth control to start taking antidepressants after going on the pill. This statistic is particularly troubling, especially as many teen girls are prescribed the pill before they’re even sexually active—sometimes to treat acne or severe menstrual symptoms, and sometimes just as a general, preventative measure. “It was seen as an essential thing to do,” says Grigg-Spall, “It was more of a rite of passage.”