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If you feel blue, your birth control might be to blame

Photo: Unsplash/Sunset Girl

Hormonal birth control has been praised for doing everything from easing period cramps to clearing up acne (besides, you know, doing its main job of preventing pregnancy), but a new study links it to something not so great: depression.

The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, followed over 1 million women in Denmark between the ages of 15 and 35, all on different types of hormonal birth control, between 2000 and 2013. None of them had any prior history of clinical depression. Of course, life happens and there’s no sure way to separate circumstances from one medication, but the study’s results are pretty interesting.

Compared with women who were not on hormonal birth control, those on birth control had a 40 percent increased risk of depression after just six months, the New York Times reports—and for women on the younger side of the test group, the risk was even higher. Other factors that were associated with a higher-than-average risk of depression in the study: progestin-only pills and the levonorgestrel IUD (brand name Mirena).

Researchers point to changing levels in estrogen for the possible happiness dip, and caution that these findings shouldn’t necessarily prompt you to to toss your pills. (And whatever you do, don’t flush them down the toilet.)

“Even though the risk of depression increases substantially with these drugs—a 40 percent increase is not trivial—most women who use them will not get depressed,” the senior author, Oejvind Lidegaard, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Copenhagen, told the Times.

Of course, other studies have yielded mixed results. Some researchers have reached similar findings, while yet another study actually linked birth control with feeling happier. So no, if you choose to take the pill, you aren’t doomed to a life of depression. But if you are feeling down, it’s a factor worth considering.

Want to quit hormonal birth control? Here’s how. And if you are feeling depressed, here’s what to do about it.