Researchers at the Karolinska 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 and the results were published in the journal of fertility and sterility.
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, vitality 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 as when specific questions about depression and depressed moods were given to both groups they did not significantly change.
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.
"We do not want women to stop using oral contraceptives due to our results but if a woman is worried about negative influence on mood and life quality she should discuss this with a doctor," lead author Angelica Hirschberg told. "There may be better alternatives for her."
“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.”
Professor Hirschberg added: "All types of hormonal contraception have advantages and disadvantages. The possible effect on life quality adds to this knowledge and could be of particular importance for women who have experienced negative mood symptoms previously."
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).