Will birth control pills make me fat?

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Let’s face it women of all ages talk and the number one concern regarding any medication especially the birth control pill is “will this make me get fat”?

Birth control is simply a way of life and the easiest and most cost effective method is oral contraception in the form of the birth control pill. It’s a scary proposition for anyone to consider, especially an 18 year old who comes in for birth control information and wanting to take control and responsibility for her sexual health. I am asked when discussing the pill, what are the side effects and will this make me gain weight. I then hear the stories of all “my friends” who swear by their 10 to 20 pound weight gain as a result of taking the birth control pill.

What is the truth and what do the medical studies show?

The birth control pill definitely has noticeable side effects during the first 2 to 3 months of taking it. The main side effects that 95% of women get include breakthrough or irregular bleeding, breast tenderness, nausea, bloating and headache. You might experience one or two of these side effects when transitioning onto the pill. Others note some water or fluid retention and as a result notice some weight gain. The scale may show a 1-3 pound weight gain but studies show that this is a temporary side effect and goes away after the first 3 months. A review of the medical literature shows that there is no evidence that the birth control pill causes weight gain in the vast majority of women.

Over the years, pharmaceutical companies have progressed to improve the quality of the pill and minimize the dose of estrogen and progestin, the main components of oral contraception. As a result, the side effects have greatly improved. The 2 types of oral contraception that exist today are the combination pill that consists of estrogen and progestin and the progestin-only pills. There are many brands of oral contraception and which one is best for you should be discussed with your health care provider. Sometimes it takes trying 2 to 5 different brands of oral contraception before finding the right one. Everybody responds differently to the various types of birth control pill and what works for your girlfriend may not work for you. Being aware of the side effects, having patience and communicating with your health care provide are the key to finding success with oral contraception.

The good news about the pill in 2013 is that the levels of estrogen and progestin are at their lowest amounts, still providing a fantastic form of birth control while minimizing the side effects.

Posted in: Let's Talk Women's Health

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