Professor Lidegaard and his team were able to do this work for one simple reason: Denmark collects patient and prescription data. While writing this article, I caught up with him. Reliable data on women’s health, Lidegaard explains, is everything. “We had a reliable population-based study where over one million women were followed,” he tells me. “Several studies have been conducted before ours but the main limitation in previous studies has been the inclusion of only long-term users of hormonal contraception, thus already by design excluding the possibility of assessing depression development shortly after starting use of hormonal contraception.” Depression and anxiety are known potential side effects of hormonal contraception for some women (though the NHS tends to describe this as “mood swings”) and if you develop them within the first few months of starting a new pill, IUD, implant, or injection, it’s more likely that the two are related. This is why being able to see whether women were prescribed anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants shortly after hormonal contraception, as Lidegaard did, is so important. The NHS currently isn’t looking at data in this way, as I have previously reported.
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