A new study suggests that depression and stress can lead to lapses in proper use of birth control. The study, presented on Monday at the annual meeting of American Public Health Association, found that women with moderate to severe depression and stress symptoms were “less likely to use contraception consistently — that is, use it each time they had sex — compared to women with mild or no symptoms.”
Women with depression or stress were also more likely to note that they had not used birth control as all in the “the past week,” compared to women with less sever symptoms.
The findings are concerning, according to the American Public Health Association. Although preventing unplanned pregnancies is important, study researcher Kelli Stidham Hall notes that “it may be especially important for women with mental health issues.”
“Perhaps an unintended pregnancy for these women could make things even worse,” said Hall, of the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center. Hall added that family planning providers should consider their patients’ mental health before counseling their patients regarding birth control. The study suggests that women battling depression and stress could be ideal candidates for birth control options such as the IUD. These highly effective means of long-lasting reversible contraceptives are ideal for women who have a hard time remembering to use other means of birth control each time they have sex.
The study also notes that, while forgetfulness may be the reason some women have a hard time taking birth control consistently, there are other factors that play a role. Hall states that women with depression and stress may have “social circumstances, such as unemployment, that interfere with their ability to effectively use contraception,” adding that “mental health issues may impair a person’s ability to make decisions.”
Readers: Do you think that the link between depression and stress and failure to take birth control sheds light on certain unplanned pregnancies?