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A recent study from the University of Copenhagen proves what many women already suspected – that there is a link between hormonal contraceptives and depression.

According to the researchers women who take the combined oral contraceptive have a 23% risk of depression, while the risk is even higher for women taking the progestin-only pills – 34%. Teenagers are even more likely to be affected in such a way, and in case by now you’re thinking “Yeah, but what about the alternatives?” – other hormone-based methods (such as the hormonal IUS/coil, the patch and the ring) increase depression at an even higher rate.

The so-called LARCs (long-acting reversible contraceptives) which eliminate the need to remember to take a pill every day and are commonly believed to have fewer and less severe side-effects are even worse in that respect than the pill, according to the new research. And in people with already existing depression the pill makes the symptoms more pronounced.

Clearly, the hormonal birth-control methods are flawed. While not every woman experiences mood change, many women do and it’s among the leading causes for discontinuing these methods in the first year. A friend of mine stopped the pill two months in after having depressive episodes for the first time in her life and blaming them on stress at first. Some women don’t even make the connection between their emotional experiences and the pill. Like Elizabeth Kenny who, in her touching TED talk, tells the story of her pill-induced depression and the subsequent worsening of her symptoms due to inadequate treatment with strong medication she doesn’t need.

We believe that the medical industry could take women’s needs on another level. With some alternatives to the hormonal-based birth-control methods and the promise of birth control for men, it looks like that’s finally going to happen (read our article on The Pill For Men). But until we have the ultimate safe reliable birth control, here are some hormone-free methods that can be used as an alternative if you’re at risk of depression or went off the pill because of mood change.

The alternatives 

-The condom is always an option and it greatly reduces the risk of STDs if used correctly. There are also female condoms and they’re becoming increasingly popular. One warning though, don’t use the male and female condoms both at the same time, as the friction between the materials increases the risk of the condoms breaking. Remember that even when used correctly, the failure rate is as high as 18 in 100, so it’s better to combine condoms with some of the other methods listed below.

-The copper IUD is placed inside the uterus by a health care provider and it can be left there for up to 10 years. It’s highly effective – up to 99%, but it can increase bleeding and cramping during periods, which is a side-effect said to go away after a few months.

-Fertility awareness or “the rhythm method” is when you keep track of your ovulation – which is made easier by modern technology – and avoid intercourse during those up to 6 fertile days. It’s not effective though, about 1 in 4 women gets pregnant in a year on this method alone, but combined with other methods it might be an option for some women.

-Diaphragm – a cup inserted into the vagina before intercourse to cover the cervix and it’s sometimes used in combination with spermicide cream. The risk of pregnancy is 12 in 100 when used correctly.

Those are just some suggestions and in order to find the perfect hormone-free method you might need to consult your health provider and try out a few before discovering the right one or the right combination.


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