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Contraception health centre

The contraceptive Pill and weight gain

Despite the commonly repeated myth, the NHS says there's no evidence the contraceptive pill makes women gain weight.

Oral contraceptives and (very little) weight gain

All medications can have side effects for some of the people using them.

For a few women, the contraceptive pill may cause some weight gain, often due to fluid retention, but not significant amounts, and not for most women. Indeed, a review of 44 studies showed no evidence that the contraceptive pill caused weight gain in most users. As with other possible side effects of the contraceptive pill, the minimal weight gain is generally temporary, going away within two to three months.

While weight gain is an uncommon and temporary side effect to the contraceptive pill, if you happen to be one of those few women who put on weight, talk to your GP or family planning clinic doctor. They may suggest a different type of oral contraceptive. Why? Because not all pills are the same.

There are two types of the contraceptive pill: combined oral contraceptive pills, which contain oestrogen and progestogen, and progestogen-only pills. While most oral contraceptives use the same type of oestrogen in various doses, the progestogen formulation in each can differ. This means that each brand of the contraceptive pill may offer a slightly different type of the hormone, at different doses. The result? Potentially different side effects.

Whichever type you try, remember to give it at least three months for any side effects to pass.

How did the myth about the contraceptive pill and weight gain get started?

When contraceptive pills were first sold in the early 1960s, they had very high levels of oestrogen and progestogen - nearly 1,000 times more hormones than most women needed. There’s the clue. Oestrogen in high doses can cause weight gain due to increased appetite and fluid retention. So, 50 years ago the contraceptive pill may indeed have caused weight gain in some women.

Today's oral contraceptives have much lower amounts of hormones. The contraceptive pill remains one of the most effective forms of contraception available when used correctly.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 10, 2014

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