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Contraceptive pill 'reduces general well-being of healthy women', study claims

The Independent logo The Independent 19/04/2017 Olivia Blair

© Provided by Independent Print Limited The contraceptive pill can reduce the general well-being of healthy women, a study has claimed.

Researchers at the Karolinka Institutet in Sweden and the Stockholm School of Economics studied 340 healthy women aged between 18 and 35. The women were either given prescriptions for a combined contraceptive pill containing ethniylestradoil and levonorgestrel (the most common type of contraceptive pill in the country and many others) or a placebo pill.

Neither group knew which pill they were taking but the women who were given contraceptive pills estimated their quality of life to be “significantly lower” than those taking the placebos. The women said their general well-being, along with their moods, self-control and energy levels, were all negatively affected by the pill.

However, despite these side effects the study suggested there was no significant increase in depressive symptoms.

The researchers emphasised that as the changes were relatively small, the results must be interpreted with caution but said the negative effects on the quality of life in individual women may be of clinical importance.

“This might in some cases be a contributing cause of low compliance and irregular use of contraceptive pills,” the study’s co-author Niklas Zethraeus said. “This possible degradation of quality of life should be paid attention to and taken into account in conjunctions with prescribing of contraceptive pills and when choosing a method of contraception.”

The authors said the findings could not be generalised to other kinds of combined contraceptive pills as they may have a different risk profile and side-effects. 

Last year, a particularly large study suggested a link between women who take the pill and an increased risk of developing depression. The study analysed one million Danish women and found the combined oral contraceptive increased the risk of a woman aged between 20 and 34 being prescribed antidepressants by 23 per cent. For teenage women aged between 15 and 19, the risk of depression was 80 per cent and 120 per cent for those taking the progestogen-only pill (mini pill).

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