This month's topic is IUD and depression! How are those two related?!?
Depression is a silent killer, if we look into some of the statistics, we can see that:
- In England, in 2014, one in six adults had a common mental health problem: about one in five women and one in eight men. From 2000 to 2014, rates of common mental health problems in England steadily increased in women and remained largely stable in men. (1)
- The UK suicide rate ( for females ) of 5.4 deaths per 100,000 represents a significant increase from the rate in 2017; consistent with the rates over the past 10 years.
IUDs and Depression: How Are They Related?
Hormonal intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are a common form of hormonal birth control that has been used for decades. However, the synthetic progestin hormone that the IUD emits, levonorgestrel, may cause mood swings and other mental health changes for some women. Some women have reported being concerned about anxiety or depression as a side effect of their IUD. Read on to find out if you need to consult with your doctor about the mental health side effects of your IUD. (2)
Can IUDs cause depression or other mental health issues?
Whether or not IUDs cause mental health issues isn’t a universal yes-or-no question. Each woman’s hormonal profile is different, so the low levels of progesterone that hormonal IUDs emit may or may not affect your overall hormonal balance or mood. (3) There are a few things about IUDs that make them a popular form of birth control. The hormonal IUD has a low dose of progesterone, which mainly has a local effect on the uterine cavity. Hormonal IUDs can last anywhere from three to five years, making them great for long-term family planning.
Some studies have indicated that there is no correlation between IUDs and depression or anxiety. However, other studies show that women who have a history of depression and anxiety, or mental health issues related to those two conditions, may have a negative experience with hormonal birth control of any sort. Research into the effects of added female hormones from birth control has been extensive and is still inconclusive. Essentially, whether or not an IUD will cause depression depends on each woman’s individual chemical makeup. Birth control, including IUDs, that contain only progesterone seems to be linked to more incidences of depression than methods that also include low doses of estrogen. Other types of IUDs are hormone-free, instead of using copper to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. Copper IUDs may not be the best choice for women who already have a heavy menstrual flow, as this type of IUD can cause even heavier periods. However, copper IUDs are hormone-free, so if you’re susceptible to mood swings or have concerns about depression, this may be a better option for you. Opting for non-hormonal birth control may be the best way to treat the mood swings you’ve been experiencing. Your doctor can help you pick the best option for you.
How to treat IUD-related mood swings
Treating mood swings related to birth control may be as simple as changing the type of IUD you use or switching to non-hormonal birth control. You may also find that prescription antidepressants help offset the changes in your mood caused by the IUD. If your doctor suggests medication for depression or anxiety, they can help you make sure that there won’t be any interactions with other medications you take.
Other ways to manage your mood can involve changes in your diet and exercise habits. Eating whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals can improve your overall health and elevate your mood. Making sure to eat the right amount of healthy dietary fats and protein and reducing the number of processed carbohydrates you eat can keep your blood sugar levels steady, avoiding spikes and crashes that can lead to moodiness.
If you don’t engage in regular exercise, speak with your doctor about a program that’s right for you. Exercise is proven to naturally lift your mood, releasing endorphins and helping your brain produce more dopamine and serotonin, which reduces anxiety and depression.
Talking to a therapist or counselor or journaling may also help you manage the mood swings caused by your hormonal IUD. Many times, the moodiness associated with starting new hormonal birth control will subside over the course of a few months.
Other possible side effects of hormonal IUDs
Aside from the possible connection between IUDs and anxiety, there are other side effects from IUDs that can range from mild to severe. Most women feel a small, sharp pain when the IUD is put in and cramping or lower backaches for several days afterward. You may notice spotting more than usual between periods, irregular periods, or heavier periods, and more severe cramps.
Over-the-counter pain medication can help with the initial pain of having your IUD implanted and the cramping associated with your period. However, if the bleeding is unusually heavy and the cramping doesn’t go away, see your doctor.
Other possible adverse effects of hormonal IUDs are amenorrhea (no periods), pelvic inflammatory disease, increased risks of ectopic pregnancy, and ovarian cysts.
Stay tuned for more information on the menstrual cycle and the effects it has on the human body.
(1) McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016) Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2014. Leeds: NHS Digital. Available at: http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB21748/apms-2014-full-rpt.pdf