An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device that your doctor can put into your uterus to stop you from getting pregnant. It’s a long-acting and completely reversible form of birth control.
IUDs are very effective at preventing pregnancy. Like many types of birth control, they can also cause some side effects.
There are two main types of IUD: copper and hormonal. Some studies suggest that using a hormonal IUD might increase your risk of depression. However, research findings on this topic have been mixed. Most people who use a hormonal IUD don’t develop depression as a side effect.
Your doctor can help you understand the potential benefits and risks of using a hormonal or copper IUD, including any effects it might have on your mood.
Unlike hormonal IUDs, copper IUDs don’t contain any progestin or other hormones. They haven’t been linked to a higher risk of depression.
A hormonal IUD (known by the brand names Kyleena, Liletta, Mirena, and Skyla) releases small amounts of progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone. This causes the lining of your cervix to thicken, making it harder for sperm to enter your uterus.
This type of IUD can last around 3 to 7 years before needing to be replaced, depending on the brand.
IUDs are more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. They’re one of the most effective methods of birth control.
They also require little upkeep. Once an IUD has been inserted, it provides 24-hour protection from pregnancy for multiple years.
For people who have heavy or painful periods, hormonal IUDs offer additional benefits. They can reduce period cramps and make your periods lighter.
If you decide you want to get pregnant, a healthcare professional can remove your IUD for you at any time. The birth control effects of copper IUDs are instantly reversible, and the effects of hormonal IUDs wear off in less than a month.
For people who want to avoid hormonal birth control, the copper IUD offers an effective option. However, the copper IUD tends to cause heavier periods.
IUDs don’t stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To protect yourself and your partner(s) from STIs, you can use a barrier method, like condoms, along with an IUD.
Some studies suggest hormonal IUDs and other hormonal methods of birth control — for example, birth control pills — may raise the risk of depression. Other studies have found no link at all.
One of the largest studies on birth control and depression was completed in Denmark in 2016. The researchers studied 14 years’ worth of data from more than 1 million women, aged 15 to 34 years old. They excluded women with a history of depression or antidepressant use.
From this data, the researchers estimated that 2.2 percent of women who begin using hormonal birth control methods are prescribed antidepressants within a year, compared with 1.7 percent of women who don’t use hormonal birth control.
Women who used a hormonal IUD are an estimated 1.4 times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants than women who don’t use any form of hormonal birth control. The risk was greater for younger women between the ages of 15 and 19 years old.
Other studies, however, have found no link between hormonal birth control and depression. In a review published in 2018, researchers looked at 26 studies evaluating progestin-only contraceptives, including five that looked at hormonal IUDs. Only one study linked hormonal IUDs to a higher risk of depression. The other four studies found no link between hormonal IUDs and depression.
The review authors also estimated that many of the reviewed studies had a high risk of bias or varied in quality, highlighting the lack of research on birth control and depression.
If you suspect your birth control is causing depression or other side effects, speak with your doctor. In some cases, they might encourage you to change your method of birth control.
They might also prescribe antidepressant medications, refer you to a mental health specialist for counseling, or recommend other treatments.
Potential signs and symptoms of depression include:
- frequent or lasting feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
- frequent or lasting feelings of worry, anxiety, irritability, or frustration
- frequent or lasting feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or self-blame
- loss of interest in activities that used to intrigue or please you
- changes to your appetite or weight
- changes to your sleep habits
- lack of energy
- slowed movements, speech, or thought
- difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering things
If you develop signs or symptoms of depression, let your doctor know.
If suicidal thoughts are surfacing
- Call a crisis hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
- Text HOME to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
- If you feel you’re at immediate risk, reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or healthcare professional. Consider calling 911 or your local emergency number if you can’t get in touch with them.
If you’re concerned about the potential risk of depression or other side effects from birth control, speak with your doctor.
They can help you understand the potential benefits and risks of using an IUD or other methods of birth control. Based on your medical history and lifestyle, they can help you choose a method that fits your needs.