The Pill: What the doctor may not tell you

It is a common occurrence; many young women are prescribed to go on birth control pills to prevent pregnancy or to counteract painful and irregular cycles without being aware of all possible side effects.

“It’s kind of scary because some (birth control) providers don’t tell young women anything about the side effects,” said campus nurse Michele Kay, R.N. Although many providers inform women of the most common side effects, such as headache, nausea and weight gain, Kay says little information is given on the emotional battles young women may face as well as more serious physical risks such as cardiac arrest, blood clots, and cancer of the reproductive organs.

Mood swings are a symptom of combined oral contraceptive pills as well as progestin-only pills. Few women are aware of this and the reaction their hormones may have.

The hormones in the two types of birth controls vary. The combined oral contraceptive pill contains progestin and estrogen and the “mini-pill” contains only progestin. Both act as a synthetic hormone that takes over the women’s body to regulate ovulation. The fluctuation of hormone levels can cause cysts to form, and having both synthetic and natural hormones in the women’s body causes havoc physically and emotionally.

Professor Jayashri Kulkarni from Australia’s Monash University School of Psychology, Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine conducted a study that compared depression symptoms between users and non-users of combined oral contraceptives.

Results showed women using the Pill had an average depression rating of 17.6, compared to 9.8 in the non-user group. The women in the study were over 18 and had no clinical history of depression and had not been on anti-depressant medication.

“This is an important study, as it helps us better understand the possible influences that the Pill or hormones may have on the mental health and well-being of users,” said Professor Kulkarni. “In turn, we hope to improve the quality of mental health care for women, and improve the development, understanding and use of contraception.”

Despite these studies, young women are still not fully aware of the possible consequences. NKU senior Ashley Sohnlein has been on the birth control pill for seven years, ever since her doctor prescribed it when she was 15. “I was told about possible blood clots, but never about the emotional distress,” said Sohnlein. “I would consider going off (the pill), but I would have to find an alternative method.”