The most common form of the contraceptive pill lowers women’s wellbeing, new research finds.
Women who took a combination of ethinylestradiol and levonorgestrel — a common combination — reported lower mood, self-control and energy.
This was in comparison to a control group given a placebo.
Dr Niklas Zethraeus, the study’s first author, said:
“Despite the fact that an estimated 100 million women around the world use contraceptive pills we know surprisingly little today about the pill’s effect on women’s health.
The scientific base is very limited as regards the contraceptive pill’s effect on quality of life and depression and there is a great need for randomised studies where it is compared with placebos.”
For the research, 340 healthy women were given either the contraceptive pill or a placebo.
The experiment was ‘double-blinded’, meaning neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was getting which pill.
This helps to control for people’s expectations — both those of the experimenter and the women taking the pill.
After three months, women taking the pill reported a general lower quality of life.
They also said they had less self-control, worse mood and lower energy.
However, there was no difference between the two groups on depression symptoms.
The contraceptive pill only made a small difference to quality of life, but this may still be important to those taking it.
Dr Zethraeus said:
“This might in some cases be a contributing cause of low compliance and irregular use of contraceptive pills.
This possible degradation of quality of life should be paid attention to and taken into account in conjunction with prescribing of contraceptive pills and when choosing a method of contraception.”
The combination of etinylestradiol and levonorgestrel is a favoured combination worldwide because it is associated with the lowest risk of blood clots.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Fertility and Sterility (Zethraeus et al., 2017).