Progesterone and ADHD (Birth Control)

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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???

      • #133650

        Hi Tanya, I realize this is an older post but im glad I came across it. I’ve been searching for answers and I’m so glad someone else has had the same experience. I put my daughter on the Depo Vera shot last week. She is like a whole new
        Person. She has quite severe ADHD, but I believe this shot has helped her tremendously. She is calmer, more mature, easy going. It’s like she matured over night. She’s still a challenge but no where near what she was. I’m praying that this shot is making her meds work better. I wish I could find more info on how progesterone has helps women.

    • #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!

    • #131011
      Amy Jo

      I was diagnosed with ADHD at age 46, prior to that I was just stupid, spacy, depressed, anxious, bitchy… the usual stuff.

      Here’s what I’ve learned with the help of some really great docs and a couple of horrible docs. To be clear, this is just MY experience with MY body.

      BC = hormonal birth control in any delivery form: pill, patch, ring, shot, etc.

      Progesterone is practically toxic to my brain:
      -In my 20’s I got the BC shot and ended up in the psych ward.
      -In my early 40’s I was prescribed bioidentical progesterone cream for perimenopause and almost ended up in the psych ward again.
      -Nobody made the connection until an amazing OB/GYN who LISTENED to my WHOLE history.

      There is a difference in the type and amount/ratio of the hormones in each brand.
      -Our natural hormones are still “active in us” and still fluctuate even when we’re using BC!
      -When My doctors or clinics would change my brand BC I had no idea (for 25 years) the epic impact it was having on my emotions and ADHD.
      -This explains why there were times in my life I felt crazier (actually my undiagnosed ADHD) and then there were times when life was smooth-ish and I felt normal (sorry to use that word, normal, but we all know what it means to us).

      Perimenopause PMDD/PMS is another shift.
      -Don’t wait for hot flashes to think you’re in perimenopause, it starts WAY earlier.
      -My moods and brain fog fluctuate over the past 10+ years.
      -What works for several years suddenly doesn’t.
      -I’m 53 years old and my doc is working with me to adjust meds again.
      -Sometimes decreasing certain meds has helped – always do it with the help of a doc.

      Doctors who actually know about ADHD and specialize in female hormones:
      -A sexual health specialist tested my sex-hormone-binding-globulin(SHBG) and found that level was very high, as a result, all my hormones were being attached to the SHBG and therefore not bio-available/free.
      -My previous doctors only tested my basic hormone levels and everything looked ok; in reality, the SHBG created the same symptoms as if I had no hormones at all.
      -I finally found a psych who actually knows about ADHD and will work WITH me and listens to the research and info I bring him – what a difference!

      Track symptoms and moods!
      -It doesn’t need to be elaborate or perfect, just whatever you will actually use consistently. I used a basic paper calendar, now I just make notes in iCal; I added a sub-calendar so I review that info easier. There are some good apps too.
      -It has really helped me

      My biggest challenge is to not make any rash decisions while I’m under the influence of the ADHD Hormone cocktail… The “problems” “causing” my emotions seem SO REAL! When in fact it’s the ADHD and hormones.

      I hope some of this info helps. If nothing else, just know I’m one more woman in your tribe, you’re not alone and you’re not crazy, and you are loved (albeit virtually).
      Advocate for our next generations of women, they STILL don’t teach this in health class!
      It takes a lot of effort on our parts to keep digging for answers, this website is great resource.

      All my best to you!

      • This reply was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by Amy Jo.
      • This reply was modified 2 years, 3 months ago by Penny Williams.
    • #131089


      I am a mom of a 10-year-old girl who has just been diagnosed as ADHD inattentive type. When I was pregnant with her, I did use progesterone as there were symptoms of miscarriage. I don’t know if that contributes to her ADHD or not. When I was young, I could not concentrate in class. I like to study by myself and I think I am “smart”. Later most of my life, I study by myself and I have strong will to do things and can control and concentrate if I want to. I am very forgetful. Often when i open the fridge and forget about what to do. But generally I am organized and don’t have other difficulties. I have been blaming myself for my daughters’ problem.

    • #134682

      Mayz hu,
      There is no reason for you to feel any guilt over your daughter’s condition. If you hadn’t taken the progesterone, she might not be here. You made the best decision you could with the information available at the time. It sounds possible that there is a genetic component too.
      ADD can be difficult, but your daughter can rise to the challenge. Plus, outside of school, an ADD brain can be a gift. My daughter and I both have it. The ability to see problems and solutions in ways most others don’t see (along with a good work ethic my parents taught me) has always served me well at work, leading to fast promotions in almost every job I’ve ever had, even though I wasn’t diagnosed until recently.
      It’s clear that you care, because you are spending time learning on this site. Mom to mom, get your daughter the help she needs and give yourself a break. You did the best you could to bring her into this world, and you are doing the best for her now. 🙂

    • #136520

      This all makes so much sense. The BC pill made me crazy and the ADHD for me goes up and down in terms of how much it affects my life – the worst being when I’m near a period cycle. I’ve been diagosed with PMDD but I know the ADHD also factors in and I wish someone could put all the pieces together because I know all these women can’t be making this up!

    • #141310

      above very interesting. Im 52. Perimenopause at forty and a major job related stress made me feel like I was going insane. Major anxiety. Panic attacks included. I felt I would never get back to knowing myself. I was introduced to bio-identical hormone therapy. I could sleep and felt regulated. I am taking 400mg progesterone at night. Otherwise , I don’t sleep. I retired at 47. At 50 I was diagnosed with ADHD, non attentive type. After much trial, I have ended on 50 mg of Vyvance and 5 mg of Adderall at 2pm. The best part of my day is after 2pm. My husband and I agree that my symptoms got soooo much worse after 40. At this time, I am a complete airhead and have to write everything down. BUT I have no anxiety-NONE. I have been on ADHD meds for 2yrs. I have noticed a weirdness while I am driving. A disconnect from me to my hands on the wheel. Several times I felt in trouble. Today I put on my audiobook and the weirdness went away. So much comorbidity makes understanding difficult.
      Best to all

    • #158209

      I am so thankful for finding this forum! I have been on the implanon for almost a year, and since around that time I have felt very apathetic (struggling to feel positive emotions) and have been extremely mood swingy. I thought that this was situational and not related to BC, even though in the past I have been on pills and they have made me really mood swingy (worse than this). But honestly, I am so relieved to read this. I have gone through a breakup and part of the issue was my crazy mood swings, and my lack of emotions didn’t help. I am booking the first appointment to get this stupid thing out of my arm (I was already planning on it), and I have my fingers crossed it will make a difference. I am very hopeful considering it really helped getting off the pill, and now reading this that it will help.

      I have also told my other ADHD friends that their BC could be impacting their ADHD and they are also relieved.
      Much love and warmth to you all x

    • #173247

      Hi Ladies,

      I have had the Mirena IUD for a year now and all seemed dandy, I was stable for once! I have always been incredibly sensitive to my hormone shifts and was three different people throughout the month! I was non-functioning, impulsive/depressive/agitated/not sleeping/self-sabotaging for at least a week before my period and then crippled with pain the week thereafter. I could only really achieve in the first 2 weeks, thanks to estrogen. I’ve been on a foundation year at Uni and I don’t know if it’s down to circumstance (a variety of things) or it’s the coil. But I’ve had reoccurring depression the whole year and now that it’s gorgeous outside and I can’t even make myself go out! I’m in a depression that seems impossible to budge, along with new (never had all my life), persistent acid reflux. Supposedly progesterone is linked to this. I started sertraline & therapy. I’m fed up.

      I would love to try having it out but my sensitivity to my cycle and the battle I’ve tried to have with doctors to tell them my bleeding isn’t normal has been inconclusive. (I’m in the UK).

      • #173316

        Hi Zoe-twin, I found similar on the implant, where although my ups and downs were a whole lot less I felt super apathetic/depressed. I kept trying to figure out what was wrong, and thought it had something to do with the relationship I had gotten into. I didn’t put two and two together until earlier this year that it could be the implant, and I took it out about 2-3 weeks ago. It changed my life though taking it out. I no longer feel depressed all the time, and I actually have feelings again, and can connect with people, as I wasn’t feeling connections with people because I couldn’t really feel.
        The depression I felt was super intense, and things that I would normally bounce back from easily took me so long. I’m still working it out of my system as I am not completely back to feeling like myself, but I have no doubt I made the right decision and that was the main cause.

        It’s super frustrating to have to go through all this all the time, and with your sensitivity to your cycle makes it so much harder. I’m sorry you have had to battle doctors, they should really listen to us more because we know our body pretty well.

        Personally, I am thinking about going off all contraceptives until I can get my baseline moods, and then testing out various pills because I know it’s not just going to be an easy decision for the right one. I can’t do progesterone only pills because they make me bleed pretty constantly, so I am wondering if the combined pill with both hormones might be better. I am also thinking that because ADHD and progesterone are linked to causing issues, that maybe having two hormones will help.

        Would you be able to do something similar? Spend a few months trying a pill and seeing if it helps? At least pills we can stop pretty easily. You’ve had it in for a year and experienced these symptoms, it seems silly to me that they have put you on more pills instead of treating the route cause.

        If something feels wrong, go with your instinct.

    • #184472

      I got diagnosed with PCOS almost 7 years back and a couple of years back my ADHD got worse. I don’t know how it happened but it did. Now i realised, after reading your posts that i had taken emergency contraceptive pills at those specific times in the timeline when my ADHD started getting difficult to handle. I fell into depression and had a loss of apatite and libido. The moment I broke off the relationship i started feeling better and started losing weight as well. But my ADHD didn’t get better. O think all kinds of birth control has this effects and it’s important to use protection during sex and not just to keep safe from stds and getting pregnant but also our own mental well-being depends on it.

    • #184584

      Thank you mommies for sharing your experiences. I am planning to have a baby and your sharing has been very helpful. Thanks!

    • #187524

      I have always had a bad reaction to progesterone, all forms. They even tried a synthetic form on me. The day after I begin progesterone,I cry, cry, cry. Depression gets worse. It took years to find an MD who would put me on unopposed beta-estradiol. It was essential for my mental, improving Adhd brain functioning enormously.
      At menopause, I became deeply depressed. Estradiol saved my life.
      My new MD took me off it a year ago and I have been struggling. I will be asking my MD to restart the estrogen but most MDs have no clue…Estrogen is incredible beneficial to all manner of BRAIN FUNCTION: memory, executive functions, and mood improvement.

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