Birth Control & Mood Swings: What You Need to Know

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Any changes to your hormones can affect your mood. That includes natural changes during your menstrual cycle and changes caused by hormonal birth control.

Does birth control increase mood swings? Birth control can increase mood swings, particularly in anyone with a history of depressive symptoms. Others may report a more balanced mood on certain types of birth control. 

How one person reacts to hormonal birth control may differ from the next. That’s why it’s important to know what to watch for if you’re among the many contraceptive users worried about whether their birth control is making them moody. 

Hormones & Mood Changes

Any hormone imbalance can cause changes in your mood. Whether that imbalance is caused by oral contraceptive use, your menstrual cycle, or lifestyle changes, hormone fluctuations can cause anxiety, mood swings, and even depression.

Hormonal birth control methods work by adjusting hormone levels in the body to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Those adjustments also prevent natural hormonal fluctuations during monthly menstrual cycles.

In some women, that can cause irritability, anger, anxiety, and mood swings. It can also have the opposite effect.

Can birth control stabilize mood swings from PMS? Birth control can stabilize mood swings from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and alleviate severe period symptoms in some women.

Knowing how your body will react to hormonal birth control can be difficult. 

Why the Type of Birth Control Matters

Different forms of hormonal contraception may affect your mood differently. Oral contraceptives have a more extensive research base than other forms, but that may be because they are the most popular and accessible birth control method. 

Some women report improvements to their mood in one form over another. You can always work with your doctor to find the contraceptive method that works for you and your mood, particularly if you’re working to find natural remedies for depression.

If you haven’t had luck with hormonal birth control, non-hormonal methods like condoms, copper IUDs, diaphragms, or cervical caps all come without hormonal side effects.

Pills

Oral contraceptive pills are the most common form of hormonal birth control. There are a variety of brands of “the pill,” but they all use hormones to stop ovulation and prevent pregnancy. 

Some pill packs contain a series of placebo pills every 21 days to signal the start of your menstrual cycle. Some women skip that series to avoid periods altogether, but talk to your doctor before skipping periods.

There are two main types of oral contraception: combination pills and progestin-only pills, or mini-pills. Combination birth control pills come with both estrogen and progestin, a synthetic progesterone, and the amounts of each may vary by brand.

Naturally-occurring progesterone can work as a natural antidepressant in some. The synthetic hormones used in birth control pills may not have the same effect as natural progesterone, especially in women with a history of mood disorders.

Too much estrogen, on the other hand, can cause cramping, irregular periods, and breakthrough bleeding. Women who are sensitive to higher doses of estrogen and estradiol, in particular, may benefit from a low-dose pill, progestin-only pills, or hormone-free birth control methods. 

Implants

Birth control implants like Nexplanon work by releasing progestin into the body from an insertion point in your arm. This is a long-term form of hormonal birth control. Implants can last between 3-5 years.

Limited studies show that the most common reason to remove implants was irregular or heavy bleeding, but 8% of women also reported mood swings as a contributing factor. This may be due to the effects of the increase in progestin.

IUDs

Hormonal IUDs provide long-term contraception by releasing progestin to prevent ovulation. They’re inserted in the uterus, a procedure that can cause quite a bit of pain in some. Similar to hormonal implants, IUDs may cause mood swings in some or improve mood in others

Non-hormonal copper IUDs are an option if hormonal IUDs aren’t right for you. The copper creates an unwelcome environment for sperm in the uterus. Women who are prone to painful periods may not want either option, as cramping is a common side effect of IUDs.

Patches

Birth control patches are similar to combination birth control pills. They contain estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. Hormones are released into your bloodstream through a patch on your skin for 21 days. When the 21 days are up, you pull off the patch, and your period begins.

As with any method of hormonal birth control, mood swings are listed as a possible side effect of the birth control patch. Some studies show that the patch, IUDs, and vaginal rings cause more mood changes than oral contraceptives, but research is limited in this area.

Vaginal Rings

Vaginal rings are similar to patches and combination oral contraception. Estrogen and progestin are released in the body to prevent pregnancy, this time through a flexible ring placed outside the vagina. Rings are worn for 3 weeks before removal and the start of your monthly period.

Some women wear rings for up to 5 weeks, but you should check with your healthcare provider before delaying your period. 

Mood changes are listed as a common side effect of vaginal rings, but research is limited as to whether it’s more common with the ring than with other hormonal birth control methods. Vaginal ring manufacturer NuvaRing warns of depressive symptoms in women with a history of depression.

Risk Factors

Teens and women with a history of mood disorders may be at higher risk for mood changes on hormonal birth control, but the science is limited. Women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS, may also see mood shifts on certain types of birth control.

Due to the variety of birth control methods out there, it’s important to have a discussion with your healthcare provider before starting any form of contraception. 

Always follow medical advice that considers your unique medical history, as some forms of contraception aren’t recommended for certain health conditions. 

For example, combination birth control pills may not be recommended in patients with a history of blood clots, stroke, or breast cancer. Existing medications also matter, as some can make your birth control method less effective.

An individualized plan is always best, particularly if you have a history of depression or mental health conditions. Before starting a new birth control, you should also consider existing problems with your menstrual cycle and any other women’s health concerns, like the MTHFR mutation.

Identifying Mood Changes

How can I tell if mood swings are due to birth control? You can tell if mood swings are due to birth control if you begin to notice side effects after starting a new birth control regimen.

It can be challenging to note changes in mood at the start. Keep a daily diary to track any noticeable mood shifts before, during, and after your period. Ask roommates or close family members and friends if they’ve noticed any mood changes since you started the new birth control.

If you have trouble accurately describing your emotions, a feelings wheel can help you articulate changes in mood. Most tools like this include some nuance underneath each major emotion. For example, you may feel irritation, but not quite anger, as your hormones are in flux.

How long do mood swings last on birth control? Mood swings can last for several months on birth control, depending on the hormones involved. Some women are more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations, so mood symptoms may persist indefinitely.

Symptoms that don’t go away after months of hormonal birth control likely mean a new method is best. 

Other Potential Side Effects

On top of mood changes, some women may also experience other common side effects on hormonal birth control. Those include:

  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Changes in sex drive
  • Irregular periods or spotting between periods

Again, many side effects are temporary and go away after a few months of use. If your symptoms persist, talk to your doctor about alternatives or lifestyle changes that may improve those side effects, including any recommended natural remedies.

Managing Negative Effects of Birth Control

How can I reduce mood swings? You can reduce mood swings by managing stress, improving sleep habits, and adopting a healthy diet. These lifestyle changes work to improve mood no matter what birth control options you choose.

Let’s look at tips to improve your hormonal health in a bit more detail:

  • Eat a balanced diet. Balanced nutrition is important to your overall well-being. Limit processed foods and sugars and eat foods rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Protein in particular is important for healthy levels of growth and reproductive hormones. 
  • Get regular exercise. Moving more can reduce anxiety and boost your serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Start slow with walks or a regular yoga practice if exercise isn’t already a part of your everyday routine.
  • Manage stress. Excess stress can boost levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Adopt a regular mindfulness practice or find time each day to do something that brings you joy and reduces stress on your nervous system
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Healthy routines shouldn’t stop when your day is done. Poor sleep habits can cause brain fog, worsen mood swings, and cause an imbalance in melatonin, your sleep hormone.
  • Consider supplements. Vitamins like B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D can help  you naturally reduce stress and improve your mood. Supplements can help your body reach optimal levels if you cannot get enough of each from your diet.
  • Talk to your doctor. If your lifestyle changes have had little effect on your mood or you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, you may need to change your contraception. You shouldn’t stick with one method if it’s causing persistent symptoms.

Before You Switch Birth Control Methods… 

Changing (or stopping) hormonal birth control methods should always be done under the care of your primary healthcare provider. You want to avoid gaps in methods to prevent pregnancy, but you also want to prevent additional side effects as you transition.

Some doctors recommend finishing your pill pack before stopping oral contraceptives, but this may not work for you if you’re experiencing bad side effects on the pill. Other methods may be safe to overlap as you switch. 

Talk to your doctor about the best way to transition birth control methods. They can also share tips on non-hormonal backup methods of pregnancy prevention for that first month or so after you stop hormonal birth control.

Hormonal imbalances can cause issues even if you’re not on birth control. At PrimeHealth, we work with women both on and off hormonal birth control to balance hormones and optimize their health. If you’re having trouble managing mood swings, we can help.

Schedule a free consultation to learn about hormone testing or individualized plans to return your body to a healthy balance. Follow us on Instagram for tips on hormonal health, improving your brain-gut connection, and testimonials from our members.

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