Broadgate GP

Women who are concerned about their weight often ask the question, “Does the pill make you fat?” There is a popular belief that it does, and this belief (which is actually misguided) probably owes its origins to the early version of the contraceptive pill.

The fact of the matter is that oestrogen in high doses can cause weight gain in some women due to the fact that it can increase your appetite and can also increase fluid retention. While the pills that were manufactured some 50 years contained relatively high levels of some hormones, the pills manufactured today have much lower amounts in them, making the weight gain concern something of an old myth.

The different types of contraceptive pill

When the birth control pill first came on the market back in the 1960s, there was only one type available and it contained relatively high levels of oestrogen. Not only have the levels of oestrogen been significantly lowered in the combined contraceptive pill, but you can now also buy Progestogen only pills.

The Goteborg study found no association between the combined pill and weight gain

A study, funded jointly by the Goteborg Medical Society, the Hjalmar Svennnsons Fund and the Swedish government, was carried out in recent years by Gothenburg University.

Although the study did have a few flaws in it from a scientific point of view, it nonetheless found that there was no association between taking the combined contraceptive pill and changes in weight. It did however conclude that growing older was a factor that did contribute to weight gain.

Despite the non-scientific anomalies in the research (the women’s diets was not taken into consideration, and they measured and recorded their own weight) the findings of this study are supported by reviews carried out recently on evidence already in existence.

Coincidental weight gain associated with hormonal changes

One of the factors that can mislead women into thinking that the pill is making them gain weight is coincidence; that coincidence being that at the time their body is going through some pretty drastic natural hormonal changes, they also begin taking the pill. The hormonal changes can cause weight gain and this may be misconstrued to be fault of the pill.

Miss-association between Depo Provera and the contraceptive pill

It has been shown that the contraceptive injection can cause weight gain, and it may be that the pill is implicated through miss-association. The contraceptive injection in question is Depo Provera, and research has shown that 70% of women using this product gain weight.

Nearly half of the women taking regular Depo Provera injections gained 5 pounds in weight after 12 months, with many more gaining more than 10 pounds. It should be stressed however that there is no link or association between Depo Provera and the contraceptive pill.

Fluid retention

The fact of the matter is that some women may experience a little weight gain when they first go on the combined contraceptive pill. This is not real weight gain in terms of fat, but is weight gain due to fluid retention caused by oestrogen, and this normally wears off within a few weeks.

It should also be borne in mind that there are several different brands of combined contraceptive pill on the market here in the UK, all of which contain slightly differing levels of oestrogen.

Allow three months for fluid retention weight loss to disappear

The bottom line is that if you are one of a small number of women who does gain a little weight when you first go on the combined contraception pill, allow 3 months for your body system to adjust and settle down. The weight gain will often disappear.

Contraception options advice from the well woman clinic at Broadgate Clinic London Wall

If you live and/or work in London and you are concerned about the contraceptive pill you are taking, or you would like some advice on the various types of contraception available, you can call in to the private, walk-in well-woman clinic that we operate here at Broadgate Clinic London Wall.

Our opening hours are:

Monday to Thursday             08:00 to 18:30

Friday                                      08:00 to 17:30

If you prefer to phone ahead to make an appointment, the number to call is 020 7638 4330.