Substance use disorder: contraceptive options counseling

What’s New in Contraception?

Contraceptive Technology Conference!

Biologic sexism of STIs

Excess breast cancer deaths after COVID-19

Contraception for patients with medical conditions

Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

Treating vulvodynia

Puzzling Over the Hurt Down-Under

Serious Mental Illness and Contraception

New 13-Cycle Vaginal Contraceptive System

The Future of Family Planning in Post-COVID America

New ASCCP Guidelines: Implications for FP

On the alert: mood disorders during 2020 stressors

Sex in the Time of COVID-19

Challenges old and new during the pandemic

Reproductive health in the time of Covid-19

Talking about toys

Missed Pills: The Problem That Hasn’t Gone Away

Find the “yes! . . . and” rather than “no” or “but”

Digital Family Planning: the Future is Now

Irregular Bleeding Due to Contraceptives

When she’s low on libido…

Ouch! Best approaches to menstrual pain

Contraceptive efficacy: understanding how user and method characteristics play their part

Strategizing treatment for chronic heavy menstrual bleeding


Untangling the literature on obesity and contraception

High tech apps for no-tech FABM

Menstrual exacerbation of other medical conditions

From Princeton University: Thomas James Trussell (1949-2018)

The Short and Long of IUD Use Duration

Selecting a Method When Guidance Isn’t Clear-cut

Healthcare in the Time of Digital Expansion

The Scoop on Two New FDA-Approved Contraceptive Methods

Pregnancy of unknown location—meeting the challenge

Big “yes” (with caveats) to CHCs during perimenopause

The role of IUDs (LNG IUDs, too!) in emergency contraception

Combined pills’ effect on mood disorders

Abortion in the U.S.: safe, declining, and under threat

Hope for ovarian cancer screening test

Breast cancer still a small risk with some hormonal contraceptives

New treatment modality for BV

Record rate of HPV-related throat cancer

Viruses in semen potentially transmissible

Don’t Abstain from Your Role in Abstinence

Teens births declining but geographic ‘hotspots’ defy trend

Online Medical Abortion Service Effective and Safe

Do Women Really Need to Wait That Long?

Reassuring news on depression and OC use

PMDD: Genetic clues may lead to improved treatment

Breast cancer risk when there is a family history

Body weight link to breast and endometrial cancers (and 11 others)

Family Planning in 2017 and Beyond

Make Me Cry: Depression Link (Again)?

Managing implant users’ bleeding and spotting

Zika: Updated guidance for providers

Pharmacist-prescribed contraceptives

Hot off the press! 2016 MEC and SPR

Zika virus fears prompt increased request for abortion in nations outlawing abortions

Opioid use epidemic among reproductive-age women

Good news on the family planning home front!

War Against Planned Parenthood Hurts Women

Win-win for both treatment and prevention

Center of the Storm


Menopause, mood, mental acuity, and hormone therapy

Emergency contraception for teens

Postpartum Contraception: Now, Not Later

Reproductive tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, or sexually transmitted diseases: “a rose by any other name…”

Are we practicing what we preach?

Be alert to VTE in hormonal contraceptive users

LARC among teens increased 15-fold, but not enough

Brain cancer and hormonal contraception

Free tools: Easy access to the US Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use

Alcohol consumption when pregnancy is unwanted or unintended

Latest Data on Contraceptive Use in the United States

LateBreaker sampler from Contraceptive Technology conference

Emergency Contraceptive Pill Efficacy and BMI/Body Weight

Handout on Unintended Pregnancy and Contraceptive Choice

Ask About Withdrawal (Really!)

Rules to Practice By: Safety First and Cleanliness is Close to. . .

What’s Vanity Fair Got Against the NuvaRing?

Promising New Treatment for Hepatitis C

Numbers matter, so make them simple for patients

The Recession’s Effect on Unintended Pregnancies

Lessons Learned from the Contraceptive CHOICE Project: The Hull LARC Initiative

Applying the “New” Cervical Cytology Guidelines in Your Practice

Acute Excessive Uterine Bleeding: New Management Strategies

Medical indications for IUD use in teens

Whatever happened to PID?

Update on Emergency Contraception New and Improved

Make Me Cry: Depression Link (Again)?
December 2016


In September, a group of Danish investigators published in the JAMA Psychiatry an article entitled “Association of hormonal contraception with depression.”1 The authors concluded that “use of hormonal contraception, especially among adolescents, was associated with subsequent use of antidepressants and a first diagnosis of depression, suggesting depression as a potential adverse effect of hormonal contraceptive use.” The story was immediately picked up by most news outlets and spread virally. This enthusiasm occurred in spite of the fact that many earlier studies had found no association or even a reduced risk of depression symptoms.2 Some patients have started to ask again about this issue, and many more may be troubled by this new risk to their health.

So, what should we tell the patients?

The study included records of 1,061,997 women, with over 24 million person-years of use of a wide variety of hormonal methods with different progestogens, so it sounds very impressive. However, these numbers were generated from national registries (National Prescription Register and the Psychiatric Central Register) in Denmark. From these registries and “statistics Denmark,” the investigators were able to control for age, education level, diagnosis of PCOS and endometriosis. In addition, they got information about BMI and smoking for women (from the National Birth registry) at the time of their last pregnancy (please note that few of the teens would have had information available for BMI or smoking). Also, education levels of teens may be less relevant than for older women. A 16-year old woman is most likely to have no more than a high school education.

The authors tried to exclude women who had previously been diagnosed with any psychiatric condition by excluding women who had used antidepressant drugs or had depression diagnosis at any time for at least five years before study entry.

What were the results?

The incidence rate of first use of antidepressants among…

Hormonal contraceptive users: 2.2/100 person-years

Non-users* of hormonal contraceptives: 1.71/100 person-years

* Non-users = never or former hormonal users (> 6 months). These women may not be sexually active.

Detailed analyses were done by type of contraceptive method, type of progestin, amount of estrogen, and time between initiation of hormonal methods and treatment/diagnosis of depression.

How can you interpret these results?

Even though two things seem to be related, they must meet well-tested criteria before any claim can be made for causation. These are called the Bradford Hill criteria:

  1. Strength: The larger the association, the more likely it is causal. (The association between tobacco and lung cancer was 8.0; in this study the odds ratio was 2.3).
  2. Consistency: The authors themselves cited the conflicts seen in previous studies ranges from increased risk to reduced risk.
  3. Specificity: The authors were not able to control for many confounding factors.
  4. Temporality: The effect did occur after the start of pills, but longer exposure to pills actually resulted in lower risk of depression.
  5. Biologic gradient: (aka dose response). This was violated. The method with the lowest hormone levels (Mirena) had one of the highest relative risks.
  6. Plausibility: Several mechanisms were suggested, but these were weak.
  7. Coherence: Experiment, analogy. Not applicable.

Given that the strength of the effect was modest, except perhaps in teens, that there is no consistency among studies, that there was no dose effect, and that the risk decreased with prolonged exposure, it is hard to see why this paper was accepted by such a prestigious journal. Probably because it carried bad news for the pill. I wish you all the best trying to explain all this to your patient. Maybe saying the risk increased in only one woman in 200 could help.1


  1. Skovlund CW, Mørch LS, Kessing LV, Lidegaard Ø. Association of hormonal contraception with depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(11):1154-1162.
  2. Keyes KM, Cheslack-Postava K, Westhoff C, Heim CM, Haloossim M, Walsh K, Koenen K. Association of hormonal contraceptive use with reduced levels of depressive symptoms: a national study of sexually active women in the United States. Am J Epidemiol. 2013;178(9):1378-88.

Submitted by: Anita Nelson, MD, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California-Los Angeles and clinical professor at the University of Southern California