12/14/2012 05:34 pm ET Updated Dec 17, 2012

Depression And Birth Control Misuse: The Scary Link

When you're suffering from depression, it is often difficult to get out of bed, let alone follow daily routines. A new study demonstrates that this difficulty persists even when failing to follow through on small daily tasks can have major personal repercussions.

The study, conducted by the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center, surveyed 689 18- to 19-year-old women over the course of a year to see if those who suffered from severe depression or stress were less likely to consistently use birth control -- in the form of condoms or the Pill -- than those without mental health issues. The researchers found that women with severe depression were 47 percent less likely to use contraception than women without depression or with more moderate symptoms. Women with severe stress were 69 percent less likely to use birth control.

According to researchers, the risk for severely depressed women having sex and not using birth control extends beyond the possibility of unplanned motherhood: Pregnancy can be particularly hard for women struggling with deep depression. "Perhaps an unintended pregnancy for these women could make things even worse," said study researcher Kelli Stidham Hall during a presentation at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting.

Her observation echoes the findings of a 2011 review of 40 major studies worldwide. British researchers found that a third of women with unintended pregnancies experience depression, compared to 11 to 12 percent of women in general.

The new study, however, focused more on how mental illness can lead to unintended pregnancy and what can be done to help prevent that. During the APHA meeting, Hall said that depressed and highly stressed women might make good candidates for methods of contraception that do not require daily vigilance, like IUDs. With more permanent methods of contraception, depressed and stressed women wouldn't have to remember to take a birth control pill daily or use protection each time they have sex.