Depression is not an acceptable side effect of safe sex


Depression is not an acceptable side effect of safe sex

By Opinions Editor

Scientists involved in a recent Danish study on hormonal birth control are urging doctors to be more judicious in their prescription choices, especially if their clients have a history of mental illness and are teenage girls.

The Sept. 28 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry showed a link—but no proof of causation—between depression and hormonal birth control use.

The concern over this new revelation is understandable; mental illness rates are increasing worldwide, according to an Oct. 12, 2015, article by Psychology Today that compiled numerous scientific studies that show the rise. Mental illnesses are serious afflictions, so if there is a possibility that birth control could be making it worse, that is a legitimate concern.

Most birth control options for women are hormonal. Other options include a copper IUD, which can be expensive and painful to insert; condoms, which are easy to misuse and are therefore less effective than other methods; or insertable diaphragms or sponges, which require spermicide to be effective and can be harmful to the vagina because spermicide alters its natural pH levels and are also not as effective as hormonal methods.

The study found the increase in depression is more prominent in teenage girls than adult women, which makes this finding even more dangerous.

Teenagers are still going through many hormonal changes and adjustments, which may be the reason that hormonal birth control methods affect them more seriously. It is necessary that adults promote safe sex—because sex happens among teenagers whether or not they are educated about safety—but sacrificing mental health is not an appropriate exchange for not becoming pregnant.

It is also important to remember that birth control pills are not only prescribed to facilitate safe sex but also to treat problems like anemia, acne and menstrual-related migraines, especially in teenagers.

What women need is another option or more research on options already available. Better yet, some of the birth control responsibility needs to be shifted onto men. While common forms of male birth control, such as a vasectomy, are permanent and impractical for most younger men who hope to one day become fathers, there is a reversible, nonhormonal contraceptive being tested called Vasalgel. Vasalgel is injected into the interior of the vas deferens, blocks sperm from being released and claims to be just as effective as a vasectomy. When ready to become a parent, a baking soda-based solution injected to dissolve the Vasalgel, and there are no hormonal side effects.

Until this is officially FDA approved—which is slated to happen in 2018—couples hoping to have safe sex have to either risk their mental health, an unwanted pregnancy or their ability to have children.

This conundrum is a catch-22 for those looking to stay healthy and safe in their sexual relationships. The choices available are not good enough for anyone, and women and men alike should push for better birth control options. Safe sex should not be traded for depression.