Progesterone and ADHD (Birth Control)

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Olli9 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #77820


    I was diagnosed a few months ago (at 23 years old) and it’s recently come to my attention that ovarian hormones have an impact on ADHD symptoms!  I’ve always had terrible PMS and was fascinated — eating up all the information I can find on this subject.

    A couple things that concern me though:
    – Many articles mention high progesterone levels as having a “negative impact” on ADHD symptoms AND medication effectiveness
    – I’ve been using progesterone-only birth control for 4 years…

    However, I cannot find ANY literature on how a continuous stream of progesterone might affect ADHD individuals — or even how it affects women’s hormonal cycles in general. While there’s plenty of evidence that estrogen-progesterone birth control can help stabilise hormone levels, and that may help with ADHD, I’m not seeing anything similar being said about the progesterone option?  With only my own experience to go off of, I’d say my hormones are anything but stable… My PMS is still undeniably baaad and even as a newbie I can see how little my meds help me out during those times.

    Am I accidently creating an uphill battle here? Anyone else ever wondered about this before or have personal experience with different birth control methods’ cognitive impact?

    I’ll talk to my doctor, for sure.  But it’s just striking me as odd that so many articles look at hormones and ADHD during different life phases, but ignore this little square.

    Thanks for reading!

  • #77821


    Oops, note: I realize I’m not ovulating, so I don’t have a “true” period. But I still seem to experience cyclic hormonal changes that affect me physically/psychologically? I don’t know… all I can say is my acne gets bad, I feel like I don’t have a brain, everything makes me cry or bite heads off, and then I start cramping and bleeding. Doesn’t feel much different than a period to me. Seriously haven’t bothered to think about it at all until now since it prevented pregnancy and that’s all I ever asked of it

    • #109850


      I have adhd (primarily inattentive/ slightly combined type in terms of inattention and impulsivity. I have linked a synthetic progestin administered to my mother weekly during her preganancy to my adhd. I believe there are two types of ways progestins effect ADHD. When progestins are administered in the womb they change the instructions that effectively code how proteins are laid down in the brain which I believe is why my brain my suffer from damage in the dopamine circuitry of the brian. Clearly the implications of being exposed in the womb may well be more permanent that any transient impact caused by birth control medication. I am pleased that I can help you though as in my research I found a wealth of information that links birth control medication to adhd symptoms and depression.

      The main source of my information relevant to you is from the research done by ellen c grant

      I can send you more information on the dangers of in utero progestins if relevant, if for example you found out your mum was taking intramuscular injections of progestin during pregnancy.


  • #77834


    I have been asking myself the exact same questions over the last few weeks and just wanted to chime in – you are not alone!  I’ve been on the POP for about 2 years after I had   unrelated issues on combined pills which I was on for about 5 years. As my body has started to return to a cycle I have noticed the advantages of being on hormonal contraception decline – where my moods used to be smoothed out by the progesterone pill I am now starting to get bad PMS in terms of mood and concentration as my body gets back into rhythym. I am not aware of having major PMS before, so it may be worth you exploring another option. However with the mixed pills they often include a “period” week so you would still feel some kind of monthly fluctuation of hormones.
    I have issues of recurrent depression and looking back am wondering if a spike in depressive symptoms is also linked to the progesterone.
    As far as my reading has led me progesterone basically does the opposite of estrogen, and estrogen increases dopamine. So progesterone alone could well reduce dopamine levels, worsening adhd. But just like you I can’t find any empirical studies to say if this is true or to what extent. If anyone knows more I’d be fascinated.

    • #79682

      Dx 33

      I used to take progesterone only and it made all my symptoms worse as well as adding really bad depression to the mix.

      I think it’s interesting when Hcs10 said ‘estrogen increases dopamine’- I always found eating soya daily really made things better for me. I used to be vegetarian and would drink a soya shake daily for protein. I was the most balanced I’ve ever been. I wonder if that was upping my oestrogen.

    • #79892


      I’ve heard of soya and dairy products being used as ways to alieviate PMS in the past. I think including oestrogen rich foods could be a good way of helping reduce general adhd-ness. I hadn’t really thought about that before, thanks for the insight! (But I have no medical knowledge except from Dr Google -and sorry I didnt even realise I’d spelled oestrogen wrong before haha!)

  • #77855


    Thank you for your response!! Dang, while it’s super comforting to know I’m not the only one curious, I’m still sorry to hear you’ve lost benefits that way.

    I’ve done a bit more digging while waiting for my next appointment but haven’t found much:

    My best friend just finished a capstone project on menopause for her nursing degree — one of it’s focuses was psychological symptoms and how/why they can be eased with hormonal birth control (among other things). When I talked to her about this her interest was piqued so she looked through the databases she has access to. Unfortunately, the only thing she found was a note saying “a study should be done”…

    For her presentation my friend spent a lot of time with a women’s health clinician who was really knowledgeable on the subject though and wants to put me in touch. Not sure how familiar she is with ADHD but I’d still be interested to hear what she has to say on ovarian hormones. If I get the chance to speak with her, I’ll relay her opinion 🙂

  • #77877


    That’s super interesting! That clinician sounds like a really good lead – even if she’s not familar with adhd I’m sure she will have some useful info for you. Likewise it’s something I will be discussing with my doctor in future – hopefully I get to see one more knowledgeable about adhd in women soon.
    You get used to managing it – just frustrating if it turns out extra stress could have been avoided. Still…better than being pregnant! Still your post makes me really hopeful – at least they know more work needs to be done – hopefully some valuable studies in the near future 😊

  • #78059

    Penny Williams

    Have you read these ADDitude articles on women, hormones, and ADHD?

    Women, Hormones, and ADHD

    Women with ADHD: No More Suffering in Silence

    ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #83922


    I literally just found your post on google while looking for the exact same thing. I’m 26 and I was diagnosed with ADHD two years ago. Around the same time I swapped from the copper IUD to the hormonal IUD (releases progestin hormone levonorgestrel into the uterus). The copper IUD was amazing except for very heavy periods and intense cramps. When I swapped, I went from being in a really good place mentally to months of horrendous mood swings to the point of being almost suicidal. I don’t really get periods anymore and my mood has definitely stabilised somewhat, but along with other medication side effects (ritalin) it’s really hard to know what’s really me.
    Despite being diagnosed less recently than you, it’s only in the past few months that I’ve actually really started looking at how seriously ADHD affects my life (is that a symptom?). I never even considered what the differences in hormone levels could have in regards to birth control. There are little to no people that I know with the mirena who have had any problems with their mood at all, except when I started googling and came to an ADHD subreddit..
    As a teenager I took the combined pill and then the injection (which I’m pretty sure was worse). I was also super depressed, and I didn’t know I had ADHD. I have no idea what was correlative or causative, but I’m pretty sure that I felt overall less bad during the years following, when I was on a hormone free birth control.
    I also can’t find a single journal article with anything more useful than ‘a study needs to be done in this area’, and it’s really annoying, because as you said, hormones have such a huge part to play.
    Hit me up if you find anything else, or can convince someone to actually do a study..

  • #83926


    I raised this discussion with my GP recently, and to be honest he didnt know much about adhd, but said IUDs that are hormonal dont deliver hormones into the bloodstream like pills do so it **might** have less drastic effects on mood and symptoms. He didnt really explain how or why but tried to push me towards a hormonal one rather than a copper coil (which I was tentatively considering) so your experience of both is really helpful, though I’m really sorry it was so awful for you. Oooh a new medically disturbing rabbit hole to fall down, to reddit!
    If you happen to still have a link put it in the thread 😊

  • #106248


    I found this because I have been going crazy trying to figure out some things, trying to find a light at the end of the tunnel I guess.(I know this post was from a while ago) Ive had the iud for almost 4 years now I had it out in a few months after I had my son. I’ve been diagnosed with adhd and mood liability for about 5 years along with tbi witch made things much worse for me. When I was pregnant I was in a way better place emotionally I felt better happier and I’m starting to think it’s because my increased estrogen levels. I’ve always been sensitive to things meds food ect. But now I would say I have a grip on myself lol for the most part. I’m starting to feel that maybe my estrogen levels are low and my meds are not as affective as they could be. I have brought it up to my doctorate but they both say it’s such a low amount of progesterone it shouldn’t have an affect I just feel this is not true. Around the time of ovulation? Becaubecause I dont have my period or whatever… I am extremely extremely moody elevated up and down emotional you name it. But these are the times that put me in a bad place. Has anyone leaned anymore information on this subject? Sorry for my rant hahha my brain is going to explode right now 😐

  • #106480


    holly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ever since I got on birth control my ADHD got really really bad. I am a writer and I have to work in my chair at my office for at least one-two hours straight…… what???? are you wondering how well am I doing and progressing in my next book? NOT NOT NOT AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! this is a disaster, I am all around the place. I can’t concentrate can’t do a thing without my mind being in a thousand different places in one minute. With a healthy diet and regular exercises regimes I got so happy that my ADHD was under control and I did not have to take any meds for it…but now??? now I am sad, and beyond frustrated as I have zero results at work and I feel like shit about myself. crazy.

  • #106482

    tanya Harding

    Here’s the deal with my ADD and birth control. I take BC to manage my perimenopause symptoms and it has really helped with my ADD symptoms too. The biggest change is that this BC makes my vyvance work much better, as well as it did before my hormones got all wonky. This is what I take: I now consider hormones to be an adjust medical treatment for my ADD. Until I started taking this type of BC I didn’t realize how much my hormones were screwing my attention and memory and mood. I don’t want to evangelize this BC pill or anything like that, but I mention it because I haven’t seen my experience reflected elsewhere and I think it may help other people.

    My understanding is that this is a new form of progestin, or synthetic progesterone. I wonder if this makes a difference? Perhaps different progestins have different effects both on ADD symptoms and on the effects of stimulant medications? Then there is the ratio of estrogen to progesterone, which changes during the menstrual cycle. Are higher levels or progesterone relative to estrogen, similar to before our periods, worse for ADD? I don’t know.

    It’s so hard to tease out the effects of estrogen and different types of progesterones on ADD brains, let alone ADD brains on stimulants. It’s fascinating and so frustrating that I can’t find anything published on the topic. I will say that my psychiatrist didn’t seen surprised that BC helped with my ADD. I met with him the day before I started it and he said something along the lines of, “you may find that you need less vyvance, since an increase in estrogen may make it work better.” I was like, why have I never read this in ANY literature on ADD???

  • #120869


    So I stumbled upon this thread and I had the same issue a few years back. The birth control mixed with adderal had me PMSing all month long. I was like a crazed woman all year long lol. However I would like to go back in the pill to help with my cramps and what not. I don’t want to do the ring, IUD or patch (which I did when it first came out and didn’t really effect my medicine. But I want to just do the plain old pill. For those that have been able to control the problem or found something that worked.. Which brand are you using? So I have an idea of what to look in to.
    Thanks in advance😘

  • #121467


    I need to start with this, the “plain old pill” is most commonly a mix of estrogen and progesterone. there are some variations of the form of these hormones, the doses of each hormone in it and how bioavailable they are. They can also be delivered via patch or vaginal ring or in a medicated iud. Beyond that, there’s the so called mini pill which is progesterone only and can be fussy about time of day one takes it or if you miss you may be mama! There is also the shot, depo provera, which is given once in three months and is not weight/dose controlled. I took it in between my first and second child because it’s compatible with breastfeeding. I don’t remember if it made my ADD worse, I was working night shift at the time and was disrupted enough from that.

    I did take a low dose combo pill through my twenties and about half or 3/4 way through nursing school. I am going to chew on this info for a while

    It’s interesting!

  • #121470


    Ladies, OMG, I bumped into this discussion by accident and I have to tell you the four months I spent taking progesterone capsules were the worst four months of my life.
    It made me feel so bad I was constantly depressed, in pain, could not focus, my period was so painful I would scream in pain and when I got off this nightmare, within 3 days my mood returned to normal!

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