Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and depression
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device that your doctor can put into your uterus to stop you from getting pregnant. It’s a long-acting reversible form of birth control.
IUDs are very effective for preventing pregnancy. But like many types of birth control, they can cause some side effects.
There are two main types of IUD: copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs. Some studies suggest that using a hormonal IUD might increase your risk of depression. However, research findings on this topic have been mixed. Most people who use a hormonal IUD don’t develop depression.
Your doctor can help you understand the potential benefits and risks of using a hormonal or copper IUD, including any effects it might have on your mood.
A copper IUD (ParaGard) is wrapped in copper, a type of metal that kills sperm. It doesn’t contain or release any reproductive hormones. In most cases, it can last for up to 12 years before it should be removed and replaced.
A hormonal IUD (Kyleena, Liletta, Mirena, Skyla) releases small amounts of progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone. This causes the lining of your cervix to thicken, which makes it harder for sperm to enter your uterus. This type of IUD can last for up to three years or longer, depending on the brand.
Some studies suggest that hormonal IUDs and other hormonal methods of birth control — for example, birth control pills — may raise the risk of depression. Other studies have found no link at all.
One of the largest studies on birth control and depression was completed in Denmark in 2016. The researchers studied 14 years’ worth of data from more than 1 million women, aged 15 to 34 years old. They excluded women with a past history of depression or antidepressant use.
They found that 2.2 percent of women who used hormonal birth control methods were prescribed antidepressants in a year, compared to 1.7 percent of women who didn’t use hormonal birth control.
Women who used a hormonal IUD were 1.4 times more likely than women who didn’t use hormonal birth control to be prescribed antidepressants. They also had a slightly higher chance of being diagnosed with depression in a psychiatric hospital. The risk was greater for younger women, between the ages of 15 and 19 years old.
Other studies have found no link between hormonal birth control and depression. In a review published in 2018, researchers looked at 26 studies on progestin-only contraceptives, including five studies on hormonal IUDs. Only one study linked hormonal IUDs to higher risk of depression. The other four studies found no link between hormonal IUDs and depression.
Unlike hormonal IUDs, copper IUDs don’t contain any progestin or other hormones. They haven’t been linked to higher risk of depression.
IUDs are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. They’re one of the most effective methods of birth control.
They’re also easy to use. Once an IUD has been inserted, it provides 24-hour protection from pregnancy for multiple years.
If you decide that you want to get pregnant, you can remove your IUD at any time. The birth control effects of IUDs are totally reversible.
For people who have heavy or painful periods, hormonal IUDs offer additional benefits. They can reduce period cramps and make your periods lighter.
For people who want to avoid hormonal birth control, the copper IUD offers an effective option. However, the copper IUD tends to cause heavier periods.
IUDs don’t stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To protect yourself and your partner against STIs, you can use condoms along with an IUD.
If you suspect that your birth control is causing depression or other side effects, speak with your doctor. In some cases, they might encourage you to change your method of birth control. They might also prescribe antidepressant medications, refer you to a mental health specialist for counseling, or recommend other treatment.
Potential signs and symptoms of depression include:
- frequent or lasting feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- frequent or lasting feelings of worry, anxiety, irritability, or frustration
- frequent or lasting feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or self-blame
- loss of interest in activities that used to intrigue or please you
- changes to your appetite or weight
- changes to your sleep habits
- lack of energy
- slowed movements, speech, or thought
- difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
If you develop signs or symptoms of depression, let your doctor know. If you experience suicidal thoughts or urges, seek help right away. Tell someone you trust or contact a free suicide prevention service for confidential support.
If you’re concerned about the potential risk of depression or other side effects from birth control, speak with your doctor. They can help you understand the potential benefits and risks of using an IUD or other methods of birth control. Based on your medical history and lifestyle, they can help you choose a method that fits your needs.