Will You Really Gain Weight on the Oral Contraceptive Pill?

Whether it’s to prevent pregnancy, to help troubled skin, or to help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, there’s a good chance you know someone who’s on the oral contraceptive pill. The Guttmacher Institute notes over 60% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 are currently using a contraceptive method — and over 99% who’ve ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one method of contraception in their lifetime. When it comes to the pill, there are nearly 10 million women on it currently.

There are side effects to all medications, of course — and many women worry about how their figure might change from the hormones. Here’s the truth behind that claim, as well as other side effects users can expect.

How birth control pills work

three types of birth control

Different birth control options | iStock/Getty Images

While there are different types of birth control, they all contain synthetic forms of estrogen, progesterone, or both, says Medical News Today. Many take the “everyday pill,” which includes a pack of 28 pills with only 21 of them containing active hormones. Other types of pills contain the same balance of hormones in each one, or in some cases, users have to take multiple types of pills that each contain a different hormone balance. No matter which type is chosen, they’re all highly effective when taken as directed.

Planned Parenthood explains the birth control pill stops the possibility of pregnancy by pausing ovulation. With no egg, sperm has nothing to fertilize, thus resulting in no baby. Additionally, the pill can thicken cervical mucus, which also makes it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg if one were to be released.

The side effects vary

Depending on the person, the side effects of birth control can be extremely severe to not at all noticeable. Medical News Today explains spotting between periods is extremely common within the first few months of starting the pill. This is possibly because the body is adjusting to changing hormonal levels.

Additionally, many women report breast tenderness, headaches, nausea, mood shifts, and decreased libido, too. And lighter, shorter periods — or missing your period altogether — are also common. Some women on the pill take it primarily to decrease the length of their menstrual cycle.

The truth about weight gain

Woman experiencing weight gain

Woman experiencing weight gain | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Out of all the side effects, many women want to know the truth about weight gain and the pill. But WebMD sets the record straight by saying that it’s actually rare to maintain any permanent weight gain from birth control. After reviewing 44 studies, there was actually no evidence to support the claim that the pill causes women to pack on the pounds. And while large amounts of estrogen can cause weight gain in some, today’s pills contain much lower doses of the hormone, thus not making this side effect as common as it was in the ’60s.

So, why do so many women report seeing a higher number on the scale after taking the pill for awhile? The publication notes it’s usually from initial fluid retention — but that generally goes away within the first two to three months. When it comes to any side effect from the pill, it’s suggested that users give it a solid three months to pass.

If you do notice you’re gaining an unusual amount of weight after taking the pill, it’s always suggested that you ask your doctor about what else could be happening. They may suggest that you switch the type of hormonal birth control you’re on.

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