Is getting pregnant not on your to-do list? There’s a good chance you’ve given some thought to going on birth control pills; 28% of percent of people who use contraception choose the Pill, according to data from the Guttmacher Institute. And it’s obvious why the Pill is so popular: it’s 99% effective when taken as directed, according to Planned Parenthood. Birth control pills are a safe and reliable way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and have revolutionized women’s ability to control their reproductive choices.
But unlike Matt Bomer’s chiseled face, the Pill is not perfect. Like any medication, it has possible negative side effects, including bloating, nausea, breast tenderness and (ironically enough) a decrease in sexual desire. But the negative side effect we ladies often hear gabbed about the most is possible weight gain from birth control pills. Somewhere along the way, “weight gain” and “the Pill” became synonymous, and the rumor hasn’t been shaken since.
When the Pill was first introduced in the swingin’ 1960s, the levels of hormones (either estrogen and progestin, or progestin-only) in them were far more than what any woman would need to prevent pregnancy. In fact, WebMD estimated that the Pill actually had 1,000 times more hormones than what you’ll find in any birth control pills today. So, yes, those elevated levels of hormones pumping through the bodies of women on the Pill initially made weight gain far more common. However, half a century was more than enough time for scientists to tweak the dosages. Higher doses of estrogen can make women feel hungrier than normal and can cause bloating, so widely available birth control pills that are lower in estrogen — like Loestrin, Ortho Tricyclen Lo, Low-Ogestrel, and Microgestin — are your best bet.
The reality is that gaining weight on the pill is sort of a non-issue, or at least, not a significant one. WebMD reports that the results of 44 studies of women and weight gain from the Pill “showed no evidence that birth control pills caused weight gain in most users.” Furthermore, those who did experience weight gain, which was minimal, saw it go away within the first three month of being on the Pill. If we compare that temporary inconvenience to all the great that comes with the Pill — you know, like not getting pregnant — isn’t a minimal, short-lived weight gain small potatoes?
Further studies found the Pill, in fact, has been correlated with weight loss. A study out of the Oregon National Primate Research Center of rhesus macaque monkeys, who have reproductive systems almost identical to that of human beings, found that the chubby li’l monkeys actually lost 8.5% of their body weight when they were put on the Pill. The results gave senior author, Dr. Judy Cameron, the insight that every woman concerned with weight gain from the Pill has been dying to hear: “This study suggests that worries about weight gain with [the] Pill use appear to be based more on fiction than on fact.” Hallelujah!Thiat’s what the experts say. But we decided to ask real women who have used the Pill to give us some of their feedback on side effects:
- “My major side effect was breast tenderness. It got to the point where I was sleeping with a bra on as a means to keep the pain as minimal as possible. I eventually had to switch pills,” explained Leigh, 30. “I didn’t notice any weight gain. If anything, I lost weight because I was so miserably in pain that I didn’t want to eat.”
- “I had weight gain by five pounds, all located in the hips and bust,” Jen, 35, told YouBeauty.
- “I’ve been on the Pill off and on since I was in college and it’s hard to tell what’s normal weight gain over time and what may have been from birth control pills alone,” said Jessica, 30. “I’m on Loestin because the low dose is best for me. The most notable side effects are GOOD ones — lighter periods and significantly less intense PMS.”
- Tanya, 35, also didn’t see any weight gain, but did experience another precarious side effect of the Pill: “All varieties of the Pill I have tried have made me emotionally delicate.”
But what it really comes to do, as with other medications, is trial and error. Keep an open mind and realize it might take two or three different brands of birth control pills before you find the one that fits.