Does Birth Control Cause Weight Gain?
We’ve all heard it before. From a cousin, a mother, a sister, or a friend, we all know that one person who says that birth control made them gain weight.
Spoiler alert; birth control does not make you technically GAIN weight!
At this point, you are either mad and stopped reading, or you are thoroughly intrigued and want to know more. Buckle in ladies, because we are taking you all the way down to ScienceTown.
Before we dive into today’s science, we must first understand where these claims began. Decades ago, our foremothers were on the bleeding edge of oral contraceptives (pun intended). These contraceptive pioneers were taking oral contraceptives that utilized different types of hormones at MUCH higher doses than we have today; roughly 3-10 times the amount of estrogen that is found in today’s pills. Well, it is a fact that high estrogen levels can increase fluid retention as well as appetite and cause you to gain weight. This is true for synthetic as well as natural estrogen. So, our female pioneers may have had a valid excuse, but what about us?
Well, study after study has proven that females do not actually gain any measurable weight on birth control. So are we just holding on to our mothers and grandmothers excuse? Yes and No.
Today’s hormonal contraceptives are weak in comparison to what these ladies took in the past. Today, you might notice a change on the scale within the first few weeks or months after starting on birth control. But this is actually due to water retention, and not actual weight or fat gain. A study compared women who did not take any pill, versus those on combination pills, versus those on progestin-only pills, and found a fewer than 4.4 pound differential between the different groups. That is less than 5 pounds to make sure you are protected from unplanned pregnancy. That includes the pill’s bonus features of period regulation and potentially clearer skin. Not a bad trade-off.
So what could also be causing this weight change?
- An excuse to skip the gym: Women who just start on the pill could experience a change in sleep, digestion, etc. These fun side effects are more common with hormonal contraceptives and might even provide you with an excuse to skip the gym for a week or two.
- Water retention: Water weight and bloating sucks. So how can you reduce water retention if you’ve just started on birth control? Eat less salt, increase your magnesium intake, increase vitamin B6, eat more potassium-rich foods, and avoid refined carbs.
- Change in metabolism: We are the youngest that we will ever be again, right now at this moment. Yup, this article just took a radical and disappointing turn; sorry about that. Realistically, as we age, our metabolism slows down, which impacts our weight. Keep moving, eat healthy, and stay active to maintain a healthy metabolism.
What can we do? Stay in motion. Newton’s first law of physics states that an object in motion tends to stay in motion, while an object at rest will remain at rest.