Question for Betty.
 
I just started birth control recently for the first time in years and was wondering what would be the best way to monitor mood swings since this is my main concern with being on it? Also, I will be traveling overseas for two weeks with a twelve hour time difference.  I take my oral contraceptives at 8 pm every evening, should I wake up at 8 am there to take it?  Or should I take it 8 pm that countries time?  Thanks!
 
Betty's Answer.
 
You have two great questions. Your first question is on monitoring mood swings with oral contraceptives.  Unless you have been tracking your moods before starting on oral contraceptives, it may be difficult to start.  If you normally don't have problems with depression, you will not necessarily have problems with your new pills.  Sometimes the more you focus on trying to identify problems, the more problems you will see.

Common symptoms of depression include:
  • Feeling sad or irritable for no specific reason
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Changes in sleeping and eating habits
  • A loss of energy or enthusiasm
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating and remembering
  • Lack of interest in activities that once brought pleasure
  • Feelings of guilt and despair
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If symptoms persist for longer than a few week, depression may be the cause.

If you need help with mental health concerns, contact your health care provider, or if you are an eligible student, the UAA Student Health and Counseling Center at 907-786-4040 for an appointment.

Your second question concerns taking your pills while traveling.  We encourage women to take their oral contraceptives at the same time each day.
Some women keep a watch or cellphone on dual time zones, so they can monitor the time at home. 
In your case you usually take your oral contraceptives at 8 pm, so when you travel to a country with a 12 hour time difference, you should indeed take the pills at 8 am.  
For further help with calculating the correct time to take medication, check out The Travel Doctor at:

www.thetraveldoctor.com.au/timezone.html

This is a fun Contraceptive Pill Time Zone Calculator, along with other helpful travel information.

Combining the two questions, you should be aware that you may have depression like symptoms with traveling and jet lag.  My advice is to have fun with your international travel adventure, take your pills on time, and don't focus on looking for specific symptoms.

If when you return from your trip and settle back into your normal routine, you note concerns, then contact your health care provider for evaluation.