Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on January 4th, 2021
Although the term “birth control” implies pregnancy prevention, this is not all it is good for. While taking hormonal birth control (i.e. the pill, the patch, and the ring) as a means to be sexually active without worrying about unwanted pregnancy is great on its own, there are numerous benefits to using this form of contraception including mood stabilization.
So without further ado, here is everything you need to know about hormones and birth control!
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemicals secreted by the endocrine glands that function as messengers of the body. They help to maintain homeostasis, or balance by regulating physical and physiological changes that occur in the body.
How do hormones impact mood?
More specifically, many women undergo premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in the week leading up to their period. Although there is often a negative stigma around this condition, it is no joke as symptoms can be quite unpleasant. These symptoms may include:
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- Anger or irritability
- Appetite changes
- Insomnia (difficulty falling asleep)
- Poor concentration
- Decreased libido (sex drive)
Women who experience symptoms that are so intense that their daily lives are disrupted, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) may be diagnosed. Unlike PMS, PMDD is a debilitating condition that can severely impact a woman’s mood and put her at higher risk of a suicide attempt.
Symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS, but typically present themselves in a way that is more intense. Consult a doctor if you regularly notice any of the following in addition to PMS symptoms up to two weeks before your period:
- Poor self-image
- Crying spells
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pelvic heaviness
- Skin inflammation
- Muscle spasms
- Decreased coordination
Symptoms usually start in a woman’s twenties and may worsen during perimenopause, or a transition into menopause.
What is the cause of PMDD?
While the exact cause of PMDD is unknown, it may be linked to a deficiency in serotonin (aka the feel good hormone) during the menstrual cycle. This naturally-occurring neurotransmitter regulates feelings of mood and well-being. A lack of serotonin can also be seen in people who suffer from depression.
Who is at risk of experiencing PMDD?
Any individual with a uterus and of a child-bearing age may experience PMDD. However, those who have a history of severe PMS symptoms and/or a family history of depression may be at higher risk of developing the condition.
What is the difference between PMS and PMDD?
For most women, PMS symptoms are mild and do not interrupt their day-to-day functioning. On the other hand, PMDD is accompanied by symptoms that are intense enough to create disruptions to one’s daily life.
A doctor will need to establish a pattern of symptoms to determine if PMDD is present and to rule out other physical or psychiatric symptoms that can mimic its symptoms.
Can PMDD be cured?
Unfortunately, there is not a simple treatment for PMDD. However, there are many approaches that can be taken to help alleviate symptoms including:
- Getting regular exercise (the CDC recommends at least 150 minutes per week)
- Managing stress (try mindfulness meditation, journaling, or listening to music)
- Eating a nutritious diet (a variety from all food groups)
- Speaking with a therapist (check out Better Help for online counseling)
- Taking medication (antidepressants, hormonal birth control, etc.)
How can birth control relieve PMDD symptoms?
When a woman is not taking the pill, her body naturally produces estrogen, the female hormone, within the first half of the menstrual cycle. During this time, the uterus creates a lining for a fertilized egg to implant and form the placenta, which protects the fetus during pregnancy. When estrogen hits peak levels, one of the ovaries releases an egg, causing the body to produce progesterone hormones. This prevents the body from releasing more eggs.
If the egg is not fertilized, progesterone and estrogen levels fall. Once this decrease occurs, the uterus sheds its lining, resulting in a period. Some women are more sensitive to these changes in hormones and will experience PMS and/or PMDD symptoms.
Thankfully, oral contraceptives can help decrease the severity of symptoms. Birth control pills help to regulate hormones so that women are not subjected to sudden fluctuations that decrease their quality of life.
Best birth control for mood stability
Before starting birth control, it is necessary to consult a doctor in order to determine which type is best for you. In terms of regulating your mood, the IUD and the mini pill are great options, as they contain a low level of hormones.
Taking a continuous pill that allows you to skip your period may also help reduce mood swings by preventing the hormone fluctuation that comes with a period.
How does the pill change hormone cycles?
The pill works by releasing steady doses of estrogen with no peak levels, so the ovary is not signaled to release an egg. It then delivers a regular dose of progesterone, to prevent growth of uterine lining. Furthermore, an egg is not released and the uterus remains inhospitable to implantation.
Some pill packs include placebo pills that are taken during the final week of a cycle to induce a bleed. This is referred to as withdrawal bleeding because it is the body’s reaction to a loss of hormones. When the placebo pills are not taken, hormones remain steady.
Does birth control make you moody?
Women with a history of depression may have a slight chance of experiencing mood swings when taking an oral contraceptive. For this reason, it is crucial that women let their doctors know if they have a history of depression before trying the pill or switching contraceptives.
How to balance hormones while on birth control
The best way to ensure that your birth control pill will help regulate your hormones is to take it around the same time every day. Not only will this make it more effective, but it will also help you get into a routine of taking it every day. The more you forget to take the pill, the more you put yourself at risk of unplanned pregnancy and fewer health benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for hormones to balance after starting birth control?
Your hormones should be more balanced after two to three months of taking the pill.
Does birth control make you emotional?
In most cases, low-dose combination birth control pills will not cause mood swings. In fact, many women report feeling less anxious and depressed once they begin taking the pill. However, if you do feel more emotional after starting birth control, contact your doctor.
What does birth control do to your hormones?
Birth control can help to regulate your mood by releasing a steady dose of hormones, which would otherwise fluctuate in response to menstruation.
What hormones are in birth control pills?
The combination pill contains estrogen and progesterone, which help regulate a woman’s reproductive health when they are in balance. The mini pill only contains progesterone.
How Pandia Health can help
Pandia Health‘s mission is to make women’s lives easier by providing FREE delivery of birth control to all 50 states. Our expert doctors can write you a new prescription if you live in AZ, CA, CO, FL, GA, MI, NV, TX, WA, or WY. We can also help you transfer your current prescription to our pharmacy.
With Pandia Health, it’s time to say goodbye to “pill anxiety” in knowing that you will never run out of birth control on our watch. Sign up today so you can #SkipTheTrip to the pharmacy and have that #PandiaPeaceOfMind.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.