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With one in four Australian women on the oral contraceptive pill, few are aware of the link between the pill and mental health conditions.

With more than 100 million women worldwide and one in four Australian women taking oral contraceptive pills, new research is showing a strong link between the pill and mental health decline.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have conducted a study examining the brains of women taking oral contraceptives.

Research found that women taking the pill had a significantly smaller hypothalamus volume compared to those who weren’t taking this form of birth control.

The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain located near the pituitary gland responsible for producing hormones and regulating essential bodily functions such as moods.

Dr. Michael Lipton, head of the study, concluded that a smaller hypothalamic volume was also associated with greater anger and showed a strong correlation with depressive symptoms.

Depression affects twice as many women as men and it’s estimated one in four Australian women will experience depression in their lifetime.

Since the 1960’s, this tiny hormone-packed tablet has been treated as a miracle pill admired by women who now have the power to plan their periods and pregnancies.

With depression being one of the most predominant and devastating mental health issues in Australia, the prized benefits of the pill no longer outweigh the newly discovered evil it can create.

So what exactly is the pill?

The oral contraceptive pill is a tablet taken daily that contains both estrogen and progesterone hormones. It works by stopping the ovaries from producing an egg each month, preventing it from being fertilised.

The pill is used for many different reasons including; pregnancy prevention, improving acne, making periods lighter and more regular, skipping periods and improving symptoms of endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

While the pill has many benefits for women, research suggests that it can be linked to causing mental health issues, a detrimental side effect that doctors aren’t telling patients.

Evidence from a large Danish study on links between oral contraceptives and low mood rings alarm bells as 23% of women on the pill are more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant compared to those who aren’t.

The study also found that depression was diagnosed at a 70% higher rate amongst 15 to 19 year olds taking the pill and women between the ages of 15 and 33 are three times more likely to die by suicide if they have taken hormonal birth control.

Medical practitioners are quick to point out the less harmful physical side effects of taking oral contraceptives, yet seem to fail to mention the psychological damage it can trigger to a women’s mental health.

The praised pill has seen doctors handing it out like candy on Halloween to every women complaining of cramps, blemished skin or wanting an ‘easier’ option for birth control.

While medication should only be prescribed when medically necessary to patients, the pill is being prescribed routinely and by default from doctors.

So why are the mental health side effects of oral contraceptives being hidden from unsuspecting patients who are being prescribed them?

Dr. John Littell, a family physician, explains that the side effects of the pill are not often told to patients as they are seen as not important.

“Physicians in training during the past thirty years or so have been taught to find any reason to put women on some form of contraception without mentioning the possible risks associated with these methods.”

This is alarming news as Dr. Littell also mentions that when talking about the side effects, doctors are trained to see them as less of a concern than the overarching “problem” of pregnancy.

“The pill is often prescribed without any sense of hesitation from the prescribing physician, stating risks are viewed as less important than encouraging the woman to take it,” Dr. Littell explains.

Many women are now breaking free from the synthetic hormone cocktail being put into their body daily that is mixing with their emotions.

With research telling us what the doctors won’t, it’s no surprise why the most common reason women now change or stop taking the pill is because of mental health side effects.

Articles written by women titled “Why I’ll never take the pill again” and “My nightmare on the pill” explore firsthand the impact this pill has on women and the decline of their mental state.

Psychologist Sarah E. Hill suggests that almost half of those who go on the pill stop taking it within the first year due to intolerable side effects, with the main one reported being unpleasant changes in mood.

“Sometimes it’s intolerable anxiety, other times it’s intolerable depression, or maybe both simultaneously,”

“Even though some women’s doctors may tell them that those mood changes aren’t real or important, a growing body of research suggests otherwise,” Hill states.

Digital media brand The Debrief has launched an investigation linking mental health to the pill, surveying 1,022 readers between the ages of 18 and 30.

93% of women surveyed were on the pill or had previously taken it and of these women, 58% believe that the pill had a negative impact on their mental health.

45% of women experienced anxiety and 45% experienced depression while taking oral contraceptives.

43% of these women sought medical advice about their mental health, and over half the women believed that doctors did not take their concerns seriously.

With studies revealing the truth and doctors trying to hide it, the alarming facts point to a deadly pill polluting the brains of innocent, unsuspecting women.

While the oral contraceptive pill still remains the most popular and accessible form of birth control in Australia, it should be taken with caution and use should be monitored daily to prevent the occurrence of harmful side effects.

 

Kirsten from NSW, mother of two, shares her personal story on managing anxiety and post-natal depression.

When my son was born 10 years ago I was excessively worried about looking after him, both during and after the pregnancy, to the point where the fear was crippling. The five nights I spent in hospital I hardly slept, the anxiety just kept me awake. I started to obsess over sleep routines for him and for myself. My head was always full of what ifs. I feared being alone with him and didn’t want my first husband to go to work. The anxiety just increased and I started experiencing burning sensations in my back, arms and neck.

The anxiety and worry led to two weeks of no sleep and so I took myself to the hospital to get help. They administered some medication to help me calm down and I stayed there for a week. By that stage, I honestly felt like my body had forgotten how to sleep. The anxiety led to severe depression. I received some psychological help which allowed me to get by. Medication helped me to feel better and to sleep at night.

Eventually over the next few months I think I just got used to being a mum, gained confidence and eventually things went back to normal. I also went back to work part time where I felt safe and confident. When my second husband and I decided to try for a baby I started the process of gaining a better understanding of postnatal depression and anxiety through research. I guess I was doing all I could to prevent going through that nightmare experience again. So in 2014, I gave birth to our beautiful daughter and I felt so much more comfortable and so excited and full of joy.

Over the next eight weeks I didn’t recognise that the anxiety was slowly building. At eight weeks old she had one unsettled night where she wouldn’t drink her bottle and I started worrying so much about it that I couldn’t sleep that night. That triggered everything that had happened eight years before only much more intensely. I didn’t sleep for three nights and the burning sensations were back.

During one of my sleepless nights I was searching the internet for help and found a Mum and Bubs unit for anxiety and depression at a hospital. I booked in as soon as I could. Mentally I felt detached from reality, like I was going insane, like I was in a fog. I was so indecisive about the simplest things like packing the baby bag. I couldn’t believe that I had gone from being a confident capable teacher, who had who had a huge capacity and had achieved a lot of things in her life, so someone who struggled to put clothes on the line or leave the house with her baby and felt fear when she was alone with my daughter.

Mentally I felt detached from reality, like I was going insane, like I was in a fog.

After a panic attack in hospital, the psychiatrist on duty asked me what my plan was for getting out of here. That motivated and empowered me to work on the strategies I needed to get back on my feet. I wrote out positive affirmations and scriptures that challenged some of my irrational negative unhelpful thinking. I worked out what a daily and weekly plan would look like when I got home. That structure and support made me feel more in control and confident to leave the hospital. My faith kept me confident that God was with me and he would pull me through. My husband was my main support. I believe that where I’m at today is due to being proactive in my recovery and the support of my husband.

Today I try to manage my mental health by doing exercise, my faith in God, his word and prayer, medication, relaxation like yoga and mindfulness, attending anxiety support groups, psychologist and psychiatrist sessions. Today I look after my daughter with confidence and competence and I do not get anxious when I am alone with her. I have found looking outside myself to support and educate others about depression and anxiety has helped me stay well. I love my life today and I find enjoyment in my family and my interests but I still need to use the tools I’ve learnt to manage the triggers for the anxiety on a daily basis to stay well.

Republished from beyondblue’s Just Speak Up stories

Depression is a horrendous place. Despite it, unfortunately, now having a colossal army of recruits, it is the loneliest place in the world. In my experience, this was a result of Superwoman Syndrome.

I wonder who noticed we skipped an edition? In nearly eight years of publishing Offspring Magazine to simply not produce an issue was a big deal. It wasn’t just a blip to my staff either who rely on a regular income.

The reason? A Big. Fat. Meltdown.

I shouldn’t understate the reality… that’s what got me into strife in the first place … glossing over things.

Celebrating 2017 New Year’s Eve and the ensuing 11 days in Royal Perth psychiatric ward with “Ice addicts and prostitutes” (yes, shamefully, my words at the time before discovering we suffered from the same disease – Inability to Cope with Life) was a Superpowered meltdown. Otherwise known as BREAKDOWN.

So I won’t skirt around, in a misguided attempt at Superwoman heroism. Mind you, I was never under any such delusions of grandeur, but I guess trying to meet some self-imposed, perfectionistic ideals of running a successful business and having aspirations of becoming a Mary Poppins-style mother (albeit in her forties, and single…), and managing – was trying to utilise superpowers I simply didn’t inherit. As my therapist points out, “60% is Doing Great”.

Flagellating the self for failing at attempts to live up to an ideal which saw a Good Mum BAKING not BUYING $10-additive-ridden-cupcakes from Coles; Or, that my kids would become maternal orphans for spending more time at their dad’s than mine during press deadlines; contributed to the malady.

I did have real pressures. Being a single mum is tough – emotionally and financially. I personally find the burden of having to Provide the hardest part. As well as not having that special someone to confide in the stresses of each day. The isolation and load is taxing.

I had also been running flat out for a while, expanding Offspring during a relentless and fast-paced era of communications changes, in a cut-throat industry, while adapting to life as a single parent, in a new town with no family or friends. The isolation exaggerates everything. It has been gruelling, lonely and stressful.

Background: Several years after launching Offspring Perth, I packed up my then-five and two-year-old children, and husband, and moved interstate to launch our Sydney edition and then earlier last year launched Offspring Melbourne. The digital side was somewhere in between, and of course the requirements for that area are expanding all the time.

The timing was unusual. Depression can be like that…sneaking up on you while you’re convincing yourself you’re ‘doing fine’.

I was apparently doing everything right: I took time off work. I was running 6km every day. I meditated two hours a day. I had regular counselling sessions with a great psychologist. Confided with close family. Spoke candidly with friends. Had invested in a personal library dominated by Hay House publishing; I think I could write a PhD thesis on positive affirmations! Hell, I even gave up alcohol. No mean feat given it was the Festive Season.

But, still, I could not keep the Black Dog at bay.

I lost all interest in life. Including eating, I weighed 45 kg.

I just wanted to Not Exist Any More. To die.

I wanted to escape the pain. It was excruciating.

During my daily run, I had to continuously fight the urge to run in front of oncoming traffic. And would then curl over in a screaming ball of agony. The pain in my gut, in my solar plexus, was like someone was pushing a nine-inch dagger inside and twisted it around. It was physical.

I prayed like hell for help. And it came. I was lucky in that I had tremendous reprieve relatively quickly, and without medication.

I was prescribed Prozac and told I would be committed to a life-long dedication to a medication and counselling program. It would be about ‘managing’, not ‘curing’. As someone who hates to be confined to any one dogma or label, this prognosis irked me.

One afternoon, two days before I was due to be released back into to the Wild, er, world again, and five days into the administered anti-depressant regime, and hungover from Temazepam as the only means of sleep while battling mental train wrecks and sharing a dormitory with three other emotionally-fraught, insomniacs, I had a whim to do what, any rational, and very, very desperate person, seeking Hope, might also do. Go see a clairvoyant.

It was on one of my family excursions, out of the asylum, during which my supportive ex-husband brought the kids to visit, that I decided a trip to Fremantle might be useful. This was the kids’ Summer holiday, I didn’t want my ‘ineptness’ ruining their holiday. (Ineptness was precisely how I viewed my condition, not as an illness, which is not a helpful attitude for addressing this type of problem.).

It was here, in a Crystal Shop in Fremantle, I met Yvette.

Yvette could relate. She read my soul. She could feel my agony without me saying a word. She understood my pain and offered help.

The medical staff at hospital had done their jobs well and offered help but I’d tried their treatments previously, and here I was, worse than ever. I certainly open to alternative suggestions. Anything was worth a crack, even if it meant reducing the pain by placebo. I didn’t care.

Yvette referred me a Body Talk worker, Brenda, and while I didn’t know anything about this discipline, I was too exhausted and hopeless to care, judge or enquire. What the hell? I’d take a gamble on adding to present pain.

I went and saw Brenda and WOW. I went to sleep that night and awoke the next morning to have ALL PAIN REMOVED. THE DEPRESSION HAD GONE.

And it hasn’t returned.

I am not advocating against traditional medicine. This is very necessary, for many, but for me I had tried several times over the years and it hadn’t worked. There were blocks there not being addressed by traditional methods.

When I experienced the relief of the depression I also had a massive realisation: This pain wasn’t new. It had only intensified recently to become unbearable but I had been harbouring the aching for nearly 30 years.

Sounds miraculous, and it was. And I am very, very, very grateful. I am grateful to the whole experience, not just the healing, and the people and events that lead to that.

I am also grateful to now grasp the damage this ridiculous Superwoman notion causes. Not just to ourselves, but to those around us. My family in Perth missed spending time with me at home. My kids had to visit me in a psychiatric ward and deal with an emotionally-fragile mother. The only time I spent with my old Perth friends while visiting was in hospital. My staff lost income. My ex-husband had to take a week off work, not to mention, presumably, dealing with the prospect of his children having a basket case for a mother. And of course, I was getting no joy out of life.

Ironically, in my bid to ‘have it all’, I had nothing.

So Superwoman, or Superman (now that’s a whole new kettle of piranhas!), can superzoom off into the ether. Superordinary will have to do.

 

For those experiencing depression please contact:

Suicide helpline:

If you or someone you know is struggling with Depression please contact

Lifeline Australia

Phone: 13 11 14

www.lifeline.org.au/get-help

Expert in the field, Professor Marie-Paule Austin discusses why post natal depression is such a debilitating illness which affects a large number of new mothers.

Most new mothers sing the same song. You know the words. It goes, “I had no idea how hard it would be. I’m too tired to even make a cup of tea.” Repeat.
Everyone struggles to keep their head above water. But what do you do if you feel like you’re sinking? Professor Marie-Paule Austin is working as a lifesaver for women who are in danger of going under. She’s the Chair of Perinatal Mental Health at the University of New South Wales and runs the Mother and Baby Unit at St John of God Health Care in Burwood — and she is there for you.
In 2012, a Victorian woman suffering from postnatal depression killed one of her infant twin daughters and left the other brain-damaged. It is Marie-Paule’s mission to support women through their darkest hours so that they never feel pushed to such desperate, tragic acts.
Depressed women have a real handicap in the daily business of being a mum.
“Depression affects our motivation, our ability to think clearly, to make decisions, and to organise ourselves,” says Marie-Paule. “It reduces energy levels, can impact on sleep and appetite, and is often associated with increased anxiety. It can include low self esteem, a sense of hopelessness, and thoughts that life’s not worth living. All of those symptoms put together mean that if somebody suffers with a significant depressive episode, their ability to function day-to-day will be significantly impacted.”

“If the mother is isolated and there’s no one else to take over for a while, then that child is more at risk of what we call insecure attachment patterns.”

Caring for baby
“Depressed women have difficulty maintaining a routine with the baby. We’ve seen mums who just can’t remember when they last fed the baby or if they put enough spoonfuls in the formula. So in that sense the mother is not able to tend as well in a practical way to the baby.”

Bonding with baby
“What we find in most cases is that, even if a mother is able to provide the practical, day-to-day stuff — like feeding at regular intervals, settling the baby and so forth — she’ll more likely be affected in her ability to emotionally care for the baby.
“If she’s totally preoccupied with very negative thought patterns, she can’t be in the moment, picking up Baby’s cues. Babies are very communicative, right from the start. They don’t have verbal skills, but they’re doing all sorts of things to catch Mum’s attention and begin that lovely emotional bonding relationship that they need to develop with their primary carer.
“If Mum’s not able to attend to the much more subtle stuff, then the baby will, over time, learn not to expect that from Mum and will start to look for that from other key caregivers. That’s if the mother’s lucky enough to have one of her parents or in-laws or a partner who can give Baby that emotional input. But these days it’s very often the mother at home on her own with the baby. It’s very isolating. And that will impact on the gradual process of bonding and attachment that develops in the first year or two of the child’s life.”

“If she’s totally preoccupied with very negative thought patterns, she can’t be in the moment, picking up Baby’s cues.”

Baby’s future mental health
“If the mother is isolated and there’s no one else to take over for a while, then that child is more at risk of what we call insecure attachment patterns. In the more vulnerable, less resilient offspring, that may translate into an increased risk for their own mental health in future, and their own capacity to engage in meaningful, committed relationships. So depression can definitely have a trans-generational impact.”

Do you need help or a good zzzz?
Most of us will cheerfully admit that our beloved babies drive us crazy from time to time. So how do we differentiate between serious depression and just feeling overtired and stressed out?
Marie-Paule says, “Even clinicians don’t always know the first time, because sleep deprivation can send some people literally crazy. If you sleep-deprive someone and isolate them, in some cases they can become psychotic.
“Sleep-deprivation is inevitable with a newborn, even in the best circumstances. So we admit the mother and the baby to a Mother–Baby Unit, such as the one we have here in Sydney. We give Mum a period of time where she can catch up on sleep. Sometimes that’s all she needs.
“If we’re concerned about depression, what you’re looking for are some key features, like a sense of not being able to enjoy anything. So, even if someone got a good enough sleep and you’d think they’d have a bit more energy to enjoy things, they don’t. They can’t see any point; they can’t see any future. If there’s no sense of hope, no capacity to enjoy any aspect of their life, then we’re much more likely to think that this could be an episode of depression rather than sleep deprivation or anxiety with a new or unsettled baby.

“If she’s totally preoccupied with very negative thought patterns, she can’t be in the moment, picking up Baby’s cues.”

“At the Mother–Baby Unit, about 30 to 40 percent of the babies we see are actually quite unsettled. So we help with the routine, those mother-craft skills that many first-time mums lack — settling and feeding, things that create high levels of anxiety.
“We take pregnant and postnatal mums, with their babies up to one year of age, from across the whole Eastern States. Anyone who thinks that they or a relative might need help can ring St John of God Burwood Hospital on 02 9715 9200 for advice.”