The Link Between IUDs and Depression That We Need To Talk About
IUDs and depression

The Link Between IUDs and Depression That We Need To Talk About

At 15, having my painful and irregular periods managed, manufactured, and scheduled by the Pill seemed like The Best Idea Ever. But at 27, I started to question the long-term effects of the artificial hormones that had been coursing through my body for over 12 years. The rest of my self-care routine was in the midst of an all-natural makeover—organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, skincare ingredients straight from Mother Earth—and the Pill didn’t seem to make sense for me anymore. I researched some other birth control options, and landed on an IUD; specifically, Mirena: One appointment, three to 10 years of baby-free sex, and a lower dosage of localized hormones.

My OB-GYN was just as enthusiastic about my decision as I was; I had the IUD implanted 20 minutes after my initial consultation. But in the weeks following my birth control switch, I felt decidedly less enthusiastic. Besides the bloating, acne, and slight mustache that had sprouted on my upper lip (true story), I fell into a deep pit of depression. I blamed my constant state of general blah-ness on a recent move, job drama, and the stress of planning my upcoming wedding…but after months of living under this heavy haze with no end in sight, I started to wonder, was my IUD causing my depression?


In short, yes. “A 2016 study of over a million women in the the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that progestin-only contraceptives, like the IUD, were associated with a higher risk of depression,” reveals Dr. Jolene Brighten, a Functional Medicine Naturopathic Medical Doctor and the author of Beyond the Pill. This isn’t exactly an uncommon side effect, either. “Some studies have stated that progestin intrauterine devices (IUDs) were shown to nearly triple the number of both depression diagnoses and antidepressant use among young women [as compared to those not on birth control],” Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an OB-GYN and women’s health expert, tells Blood and Milk.


Dr. Brighten concedes that there hasn’t been enough research in the space to fully understand why hormonal IUDs like Mirena can cause mood swings and depression, but there’s evidence to suggest that it comes down to progestin, the synthetic hormone found in many contraceptives. “It appears alterations in brain chemistry that lead to increased production of neurotoxins, elevations in inflammation, alterations in gut health, and nutrient depletions are some of the reasons hormonal birth control may alter mood in some women,” she explains. “We also understand that your [naturally-produced] progesterone stimulates GABA, a calming neurotransmitter in the brain, but progestin, the synthetic hormone in contraceptives, does not.”

Upon hearing all of this, my mind was kind of blown. The reason I opted for an IUD in the first place was because of its localized hormone delivery system, specifically targeted at the uterus—so how, exactly, do these hormones end up messing with our brain chemistry? “Although the intrauterine system primarily works locally, it still delivers [hormones] to the systemic circulation,” Dr. Shepherd explains. Which leads me to another question: Why aren’t people talking about this?


If you Google “IUDs and depression,” over 5 million search results prove that people are talking about it. But why aren’t doctors and OB-GYNs talking about it with their patients? Why wasn’t I told that my whole localized-hormones-must-be-better theory didn’t check out? Why wasn’t I asked, “Do you have a history with depression or anxiety?” before being implanted with a one-inch piece of plastic that had the potential to turn my world upside down? Yes, it turns out that women with a history of mood disorders have a higher likelihood of developing IUD-induced depression.

“From what is understood in the research, women with a personal or family history of depression or other mood disorders are more susceptible to experiencing these side effects with hormonal contraceptives, including the progestin-based IUD,” Dr. Brighten shares. Dr. Shepard even goes so far as to say that women with significant depression “are not ideal candidates for the hormonal IUD.”

One reason OB-GYNs may not be addressing this issue? “The package insert on the Mirena states that only around 5 percent of women in clinical trials have depressive mood and nervousness as a side effect,” Dr. Brighten says—in other words, not a significant percentage. “But that doesn’t account for what happens in the general population,” she adds, citing that outside of control groups, the adverse effects of Mirena and other hormonal IUDs may be more widespread than we think.

“Sadly, women are often dismissed in medicine when it comes to mood symptoms,” Dr. Brighten admits; so those who do take these concerns to their OB-GYNs may not be taken seriously. That’s precisely what happened to me when, after doing some independent study and concluding that my IUD was messing with my mood, I confronted my doctor. “It’s in your head,” he said, with a smile and a wave of his hand. “This is just stress from the wedding.” Needless to say, I booked it out of his office (and maybe kind of cursed him out just a little bit) and set up an appointment with a new OB-GYN, who respected my decision to have the IUD removed.

Doctors estimate that it takes about three months for our systems to completely clear IUD-delivered progestin from the body, so my symptoms didn’t immediately go away. But today, six months later, I’m not only happy with my decision—I’m also just plain happy.


Having the hormonal IUD removed isn’t the only solution, though. “There are several progestin-based IUDs that have varying amounts of progestin,” Dr. Brighten says, noting that a lower dose of progestin may be all your body needs to re-stabilize. “There are also non-hormonal contraceptive options, like barrier methods and the fem-tech devices approved by the FDA”—as well as the hormone-free copper IUD. That being said, she doesn’t condone mixing hormonal IUD with psychiatrist-prescribed mood stabilizers or antidepressants. “I don’t recommend women begin medications to manage side effects caused by a medication if it is possible to have an alternative contraceptive that wouldn’t cause side effects,” she says.

With issues as complex and nuanced as reproductive health and mental health, there’s no single approach that will work for everyone. That being said, there is one universal truth: Birth control exists to offer women freedom. It shouldn’t leave you feeling trapped under the weight of depression; and if it does, talk to your doctor—preferably one who will present you with the facts, individualize your care, and listen when you tell them that something’s not right.

Featured image by Jack Antal
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14 Responses to “The Link Between IUDs and Depression That We Need To Talk About”


April 29, 2019 8:25 am

This article makes me want to cry. I have had my IUD for 5 years and it has been the hardest 5 years of my life. Anxiety attacks, mood swings, massive bloating and of course major depression. I went to see a psychiatrist and she immediately put me on antidepressants. But something didn’t feel right about me taking them so i haven’t. Then i read this and I’m like omg. There it is. I want to thank you for writing this because it really helped me. My depression has affected my relationship, my job, and my social life. It’s nice to know I’m not crazy. Already got an appointment to have it removed…5 years too late but whatever.


Sadie Petiford

May 03, 2019 3:42 pm

I’d like to add that the copper iud is not as innocent as it sounds. Copper is actually linked to a wide variety of mental health issues (as it fights and depletes zinc) so do be aware that this (or worse) can happen to you with the copper iud as well. Thanks for this article.



May 08, 2019 1:03 am

Thanks for the article, my experience is more like I’m in a permanent bad mood (permanent PMS), irritable and anything can set me off, not good when having two small kids…. I’ve had the Mirena now for about a year and also want it removed after reading the article. But what would be the replacement? I suffer from heavy periods and being iron deficient I had to do something about the blood loss.



May 12, 2019 10:41 am

I have had an iud for two years this time. Wasn’t sure if it was me getting older or what but it’s mother’s day & instead of enjoying it with my son & husband I am laying in bed crying because I feel miserable inside. I would rather be left alone I feel I can’t get along with either of them anymore I am always in a bad mood & very snappy. I have no sex drive & it is nearly impossible to have an orgasm I have told my OB-GYNs but her response was I have never heard this as a side effect before. I am currently scheduled next month for removal & after reading this I’m happy about that decision. My problem is w high blood pressure I don’t have many options.



May 15, 2019 5:21 pm

I recently took my IUD off! And I had never suffered from depression and anxiety and mood swings! Its horrible! I thought it was stress cause I am planning my wedding but i just felt different!!! And I started reading about the mirena crash and all made sense! I really do hope with in a couple months I will be back to being my normal happy self! Fingers crossed!


Jen M

May 22, 2019 11:58 am

Thank you! I’ve been in “a mood” for the past 7 months to the point of my 16yo son asking if I have a brain tumor because I am so moody. 🙁 was going to have it removed due to bad smells after sex but now I have another reason! It’s coming out day after tomorrow!



May 27, 2019 7:02 pm

Thanks for the article. I struggled with the same and am about to take it out as it’s due (5 yrs). Hope to see the happier me again.



May 27, 2019 9:52 pm

Thanks Sadie for mentioning the Cooper IUD. I’ve only had it for 3 months however I can most definitely feel a difference in my moods and energy levels. I’ve been super moody and very sad for no apparent reasons. I was really starting to worry 🙁 until I came across this page and though maybe its the IUD after all cause nothing else changed. Already booked my apt to have it removed next week 🙂



May 30, 2019 1:49 pm

thank you so much for posting this! I’ve had it in for 4.5 years because I can’t take the pill due to a blood clotting gene & I was bleeding every day for over a year and no one could tell me why. They put me on the mirena & it has been amazing in stopping the bleeding but ever since then I’ve had anxiety & panic attacks, mood swings to the point I think I am bipolar & going for drives so I can sit somewhere and cry. I thought all of that was “normal” but looking back to before the mirena was inserted I NEVER experienced any of those feelings… I don’t know what else to do because no other contraceptive has stopped the bleeding for me but is it worth feeling miserable & pushing away my loving family & boyfriend?
again, thank you so much for posting this


Ashleigh Esau

June 01, 2019 11:31 am

I’ve had my iud for 6 months, the copper one. It actually blows my mind. I’ve always been this happy, constantly-energetic-person and ever since I had this iud; my emotions have been all over the place. I stress more, I have absolutely no sex drive, I’m constantly wanting to be in bed rather than out doing my job that I truly love. I can’t even enjoy the fact that I’m getting married soon. I’m literally digging a hole for myself. I am so glad I came across this amazing article. I’ve been searching for answers. I have booked an appointment and I want this out! I want my life back. Most of all not destroying relationships and not being able to explain why I feel a certain way. It needs to come to an end. It’s worth the wait but I really need my brain to balance!



June 01, 2019 5:27 pm

Thank you for sharing this, it’s validation of everything I’ve been feeling. 2 days out and I feel like the fog has lifted. I used to wake up and dread the day, AND was sleeping 9 hours to feel functional. My moods have been impacting my job, my family, my marriage, and I’ve been feeling like it’s all so hard. Looking forward to the recovery and glad to know it’s not just me.



June 03, 2019 9:24 pm

Hi there, great article, really makes me feel like i am making the right decision to get my iud out! Could I ask what contraception you swapped to, if any, and how you feel on that?



June 07, 2019 12:05 pm

I’ve had my IUD for a little over a year and it has been the saddest year of my life. I have been anxious and depressed, extremely insecure, and filled with self doubt. Every time I get my period I have a meltdown. I have a good life but for the past 2 weeks I have been able to do nothing else but cry and think about how life would be better if I wasn’t here. My mom realized that my behavior changed when I got my IUD and after finding this article it was confirmed that despite doctors saying that IUD’s don’t cause depression. I read this article yesterday, today is the first day I haven’t cried or been anxious. Thank you for writing this and ladies, thanks for sharing your stories. I’m removing mine today!



June 29, 2019 12:14 am

I had the Mirena iud put in 5 days ago. I have had a worsening of my depression. I’m already on medication for mood disorders. I thought my mood was due to emotions surrounding the past time I had been to the clinic for an abortion 1.5 years ago and our family decisions about children, but now I wonder. Could symptoms happen this quickly?


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