FSRH press statement: FSRH response to Daily Mail and Independent articles on links between the contraceptive pill and depression

Posted 23 November 2018

Date: 23 Nov 2018

Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements

Yesterday BBC Two Horizon aired a documentary exploring the current scientific evidence on the side effects of the contraceptive pill.

Today, the Daily Mail and the Independent published articles about the links between the contraceptive pill and depression, mentioning the Danish and Swedish studies featured on the BBC Two Horizon documentary.

Dr Diana Mansour, Vice President Clinical Quality of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

“Some women do experience mood change with hormonal contraception, but others believe it is better. There is no method of contraception that is the best method for every woman, so it’s really important that women have choice.

The recent Scandinavian study was looking at a database of men and women. The authors saw an association between depression and use of hormonal contraception, especially in young women. This does not necessarily mean that hormonal contraception caused the depression. It may mean that women who use hormonal contraception are more likely to see their doctors on a regular basis and therefore report mood change. It could also mean that young women who do not use contraception are not in relationships and, therefore, do not suffer from some of the issues of being sexually active.

The only way you can investigate if hormonal contraception causes depression is to set up a very large study where women are randomised to taking a hormonal method or a dummy preparation. Both they and the investigators should not be aware of what they are taking. If that method truly affects mood, this would be seen. So far, in the small number of placebo-controlled studies where the investigators were looking to see if acne was improved with the pill, no association with mood change was found. This is also true for a study in the 1990s where the hormonal intrauterine contraceptive was compared to the copper intrauterine device. Women did not know which device they had, and no difference in mood change was noted.

It is essential that clinicians are equipped with the most up-to-date, evidence-based knowledge on contraception to be able to safely prescribe the method that is most suitable for women. The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare produces NICE-accredited guidelines to do just that: guide the provision of safe, effective contraception. 

In our upcoming update to the combined hormonal contraception guidelines, we highlight the importance of women being made aware of the benefits of combined hormonal contraception rather than the focus always being placed on the small potential risks.”


Notes to editors: 

  • The Daily Mail article can be found here
  • The Independent article can be found here
  • The BBC Two Horizon documentary can be found here
  • The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ. For more information please visit: www.fsrh.org

For further information please contact:
Camila Azevedo
FSRH External Affairs & Standards Officer
Email: externalaffairsofficer@fsrh.org
Telephone: 02037945309