Can birth control pills lead to weight gain?
The birth control pill was a big hit when it went on sale in the early 1960s. Nearly 50 years later, it’s still one of the most popular methods of reversible birth control, with dozens of brands and formulations available. Yet over the years, many myths and misconceptions regarding “the Pill” have persisted. The most common of all is that contraception pill leads to weight gain.
‘The Pill’ is a daily oral contraceptive and there are two main types of birth control pills: combination pills (estrogen and progestin) and progestin-only pills. Most pills are available in both 21-day or 28-day pack. These are often classified on the amount of estrogen and/or amount and type of progestin.
Most birth control methods alter horomones in some way. When estrogen rises, thyroxine binding globulin (TBG) rises in the body. This binds up the thyroid hormone, making the patient somewhat hypothyroid. This can lead to weight gain because of slower metabolism. The contraception itself doesn’t account for the weight gain. A common side effect is a bigger appetite. You eat more, you gain weight.
The most common birth control pill side effects are breakthrough bleeding, breast tenderness, nausea, and headache.
For a few women, the pill can cause some weight gain, often due to fluid retention. But not to a significant amount, and not for most women. In fact, a review of 44 studies showed no evidence that birth control pills cause weight gain in most users. And, as with other possible side effects of the pill, the minimal weight gain is generally temporary, going away within two to three months.
So where did this myth come from? Well early on, the first contraceptives in pill form contained extremely high doses of estrogen, which might have led to weight gain. However, nowadays the new brands of “the pill” contain very small amounts of estrogen mixed with progestin and there are some that are all progestin.
However, if you are one of the very few women who experience weight gain, talk to your doctor because a different brand, more fitting for your body, could be prescribed. After all, not all pills nor body types are the same, and every medication has a variety of side effects.
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