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Feeling sad or anxious? Your reproductive health might be at risk. Women with symptoms of depression or stress are significantly less likely to use birth control consistently, according to a study recently presented at the American Public Health AssociationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s annual meeting. Inconsistent use of birth control can lead to greater risk of unwanted pregnancy and contracting STIs.
Researchers assessed the mental health of 689 18-to-19-year-old women and then asked them to report their sexual activity and birth control usage every week for two and a half years. While the study participants used contraceptives consistently 72 percent of the time, women with moderate-to-severe symptoms of depression were 47 percent less likely to use birth control consistently, and women with moderate-to-severe symptoms of stress were 69 percent less likely to use contraceptive consistently. The reasons given: 31 percent said they forgot, 21 percent didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have their contraceptive method available, 6 percent werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happy with the method, another 6 percent said their partner didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to use the method, and 4 percent werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t trying to avoid pregnancy. The remaining 33 percent didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t specify a reason for not using protection.
Your mental health impacts how well you take care of your physicalÃ¢â‚¬”and reproductiveÃ¢â‚¬”health, says Kelli Stidham Hall, PhD, research investigator at the Population Studies Center at the University of MichiganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Institute for Social Research, who presented the study findings. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Feeling sad, down, in despair, and worthless can impact general thought processing and can interfere with your ability to make decisions,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says. That includes decisions about contraceptive use, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s especially true when it comes to birth control that requires actual effortÃ¢â‚¬”like remembering to take a pill at the same time every day. Stidham Hall points out that symptoms of depression, like lack of energy or interest, or feeling moderate-to-severe stress, which can make everything you do feel overwhelming, can be major roadblocks to appropriate birth control use.