Body Politics: Does Birth Control Cause Weight Gain?

There are many misunderstandings about birth control. Despite that the contraception revolution started decades ago, a lot of women still believe that hormonal birth control causes weight gain. Is the relationship real? The short answer is no, not so much. Some studies do find a gain of one to two pounds of additional weight associated with certain types of birth control. However, most of the weight gain that women experience is actually just part of the aging process.

Many women worry about birth control causing weight gain. Our ancestors struggled to get enough calories just to stay alive. But now, as we try to keep our weight in a healthy range, we look at all kinds of factors: diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, prayer, or even surgery that might help us tip the scales a little less.Contraceptives and weight - BedsiderFor a woman who is struggling to fend off excess weight, one question that comes up is whether birth control could be making weight management harder. The average woman spends almost forty years trying to not get pregnant. That’s a lot of time to be putting stuff into our bodies-pills, rubber, spermacides, IUDs-and consequently rumors abound. Anxiety is contagious, which makes scary stories particularly viral. As a woman trying to figure out what is best for your body, it can be challenging to sort out reality from hype or haze.

So, the bad news about contraception is this: mostly it isn’t the explanation for those frustrating extra pounds. You are likely to gain some weight over the next decade regardless. So am I. Throwing the Pill pack in the garbage or getting the IUD or implant pulled isn’t likely to be a magic bullet. The great news about contraception is this: “birth control weight gain” isn’t the explanation for those frustrating extra pounds. We really do have good options when it comes to managing our fertility, better options than most of us thought; better options than our mothers and grandmothers could even imagine.

Many women worry about birth control causing weight gain. Our ancestors struggled to get enough calories just to stay alive. But now, as we try to keep our weight in a healthy range, we look at all kinds of factors: diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, prayer, or even surgery that might help us tip the scales a little less.

For a woman who is struggling to fend off excess weight, one question that comes up is whether birth control could be making weight management harder. The average woman spends almost forty years trying to not get pregnant. That’s a lot of time to be putting stuff into our bodies–pills, rubber, spermacides, IUDs–and consequently rumors abound. Anxiety is contagious, which makes scary stories particularly viral. As a woman trying to figure out what is best for your body, it can be challenging to sort out reality from hype or haze.

Don’t worry so much about weight gain as a side effect of birth control. An extra pound or two is not a health issue. If it bothers you, keep in mind that the ideal of beauty has been defined by our media. You need not give in to cultural conceptions of how you are suppose to look .

Birth Control Weight Gain Vs. Ordinary Weight Gain

contraceptive - weight curveTo figure out which contraceptive is best for your health, it is important to keep this in mind: No matter what beauty ideals we may absorb from Hollywood and Glamour Magazine, normal healthy women gain some weight during the fertile years with or without birth control. Weight gain is a natural part of maturation. At age 13, many girls are menstruating and some have reached their adult height, but the average weight is 100 pounds. By age 20, they have filled out, and American women weigh on average 125-130 pounds. By age 55, the norm is closer to 165 before average weight then starts declining. (Even long distance runners and other highly active women tend to gain over time.)

The net-net is that any time a woman is contracepting is a time she is also likely to be on the upward-moving part of her personal lifetime weight curve, regardless of any effects from birth control. Consequently, in all clinical trials of contraceptives some women complain of weight gain, and so virtually all types of hormonal birth control list weight gain as a possible side effect. Only after the fact, as data accumulate, are researchers able to tease apart normal age-related changes from possible effects of contraceptive hormones.

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