Hormonal contraception and mental health: results of a population-based study

Hum Reprod. 2011 Nov;26(11):3085-93. doi: 10.1093/humrep/der269. Epub 2011 Aug 12.


Background: The effects of oral contraceptives (OCs) on mental health are not clear, and no study has been focused on the effects of the levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system (LNG-IUS) on mental health. The aim of this study was to analyse the association between the use of OCs and the LNG-IUS and psychological well-being and psychopathology.

Methods: The associations between the current use of OCs and the LNG-IUS, and their duration versus mood symptoms [Beck Depression Inventory (BDI)], psychological well-being [(General Health Questionnaire-12 (GHQ-12)] and recent psychiatric diagnoses [(Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI)] were examined among women who participated in the Finnish-population-based Health 2000 study. Analyses were performed on the 30- to 54-year-old sample (n = 2310); some of the analyses were extended to include the younger age group (18- to 54-year-old sample; n = 3223).

Results: Overall, hormonal contraception was well tolerated with few significant effects on psychological well-being. The length of OC use was inversely associated with some BDI items ('dissatisfaction, irritability, lost interest in people, earlier waking and lost interest in sex'), and directly associated with 'worries about one's health' (BDI) and with a current diagnosis of 'alcohol dependence' (CIDI). The current use of the LNG-IUS was inversely associated with 'earlier waking' (BDI) and with 'impaired concentration' (GHQ), while the length of LNG-IUS use was inversely associated with 'strain' (GHQ).

Conclusions: The influence of hormonal birth control on mental health is modest and mainly favourable. The length of current OC use seems to have some beneficial effects on mood although the longer the duration of use, the greater the association with a diagnosis of alcohol dependence. Knowledge of the use of hormonal contraception might be of value when assessing psychopathology in women. The cross-sectional design, with partly retrospective data collection, precludes any causal conclusions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Alcoholism / complications
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / therapeutic use*
  • Contraceptives, Oral / therapeutic use*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / complications*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Intrauterine Devices, Medicated*
  • Levonorgestrel / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • Levonorgestrel