Do hormonal contraceptives cause moodiness, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues? Or do they help it?
That tends to be a common question asked by most women as well as slews of scientific researchers. Because of that, you’d think we’d have more answers by now, but they don’t really seem to be rolling in.
I love science and I love reading scientific studies, but I tend to nit-pick out everything that’s wrong with studies (even when I want to agree with their conclusions! I’m ruthless like that).
One of the places I see a whole helluva lot of controversy in science is in how hormonal birth control changes our moods and psychology (either positively or negatively). I know many many women have felt extremely terrible on hormonal birth control, and others don’t seem to have much of a reaction (buuut, I’d venture to say that the over 60% discontinuation rate within the first year speaks for itself), so obviously some of that is just due to how different individuals react to certain drugs, but it’s also interesting to me we don’t see a bigger sway one way or the other.
Obviously, one thing that could be to blame is the people doing the studies and the people funding the studies. What are their biases and where’s the money kind of thing.
But I think there is something more than that, too, and I think a lot of it can be seen in the way psychological symptoms are worded in these studies.
This week I was reading a few different articles and studies that I think can help give context for how much controversy there is around hormonal birth control use and emotional and psychological issues.
I know they don’t really seem to go together, but in my mind they do. First of all, we have the article saying women are supposed to be moody… And I know it’s supposed to be sort of positive in a way, but I feel like their are people on the other side of it saying “Yeap! Women are moody so you can’t trust their feelings.”
Then there is this study. I clicked on it thinking it was about whether women’s perception of what side-effects on hormonal birth control were like had any kind of effect on their actualy side-effects, but they were really just using perceived throughout the study on anything to do with psychological side-effects. While I totally understand that that is because of the way the data was collected (they had women fill out questionnaires), there isn’t actually a way to note psychological side effects other than perception. What the hell else are they? Certainly they can become physical manifestations (trying to commit suicide or kill other people comes to mind, both of which I have heard anecdotes of), but for the most part people’s psychological side-effects are relegated to how they feel and perceive every day.
And the next article, the kicker, and one of the reasons I feel a lot of studies aren’t conclusive. WE DON’T BELIEVE WOMEN.
This article particularly talks about how men don’t tend to believe women’s feelings, and he also ties in race at the end, which I think ties in well due to power. This is similar to all instances of those with power (and what they obviously believe is correct knowledge) tending to not give as much importance to the feelings of those with less power. Especially if it doesn’t line up with what they believe to be true. (Doctor patient relationships, I’m looking at you).
Sometimes I get bored with writing things, and I really just want to talk to you about it, so let’s talk about it in the comments. Tell me:
- Did you have adverse effects on hormonal birth control and what were they?
- Did people take you seriously if those effects were psychological? Who was more (or less) likely to take you seriously?
- Do you think a lot of the reason we can’t reach good conclusions with our scientific studies is because of underlying bias which has less to do with hormonal birth control and more to do with gender?