We know birth control has its ups and downs, whether those are side effects, convenience, or long-term health issues. While doctors and scientists acknowledge that you must address legitimate concerns when choosing a birth control method, one of the leading reasons women shy away from contraceptives altogether is fear of weight gain. To help, Nurx provides up-to-date information on the pros and cons of each method to educate and inform your decision.
For rumored weight gain, some contraceptive methods are more notorious than others, but is there science to back up this claim? Researchers have conducted several studies over the past decade to try to lay those fears to rest.
What Science Has to Say
In several studies, researchers have examined various groups of women according to age, weight, demographics, and chosen birth control method. The studies looked at specific lengths of time and correlating birth control types. The research teams did not factor in whether a participant was at an already ideal weight or experienced fluctuation patterns when calculating weight changes. As a result, they’ve come to one significant conclusion: Contraceptives prove to have little effect on weight changes. These include:
- Combination Pill: A 1998 Elsevier Science study found very little weight change in participants over a one-year period. During that time, 52 percent of women gained fewer than 2 pounds, and 72 percent saw no weight change.
- Mini-pill: In 2011, Health and Human Services studied 128 women over a one-year period and found almost no weight change in either direction.
- Shot: In 2015, a Health and Human Services three-year study found that Depo-Provera users experienced slightly more weight gain than women on other birth control methods, though the amount was still a nominal 2 to 3 pounds. Those using the shot showed an increase in body fat and a decrease in lean body mass.
- Patch: A 2002 study by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found weight changes in patch users over a one-year period were too insignificant to report.
- Implant: A 1995 year-long Contraception Journal study found a 1.8-pound average weight increase in the study group.
Will You Gain Weight?
It depends, but not necessarily with your birth control method. Study results suggest weight gain can usually be attributed to one of three things: fluid retention, muscle mass, or fat deposits. Because our bodies change throughout the day and over time, weight changes might seem to correlate with contraception, but there are probably other factors at work. Some scientists have associated fluid retention with oral contraceptives and believe they account for weight fluctuations, though changes weren’t permanent.
The Elsevier Science study concluded that reasons for perceived weight changes might be attributed to women who are already overweight and, therefore, apt to experience weight gain. Adolescents might experience weight change due to their bodies’ naturally shifting hormonal balances.
The News Is Good
Contraception is designed to work for you, and Nurx can help you choose a method that fits your lifestyle. So don’t let fear of weight gain stop you from using contraceptives. A 2006 Human Reproduction study came to this conclusion when comparing contraceptives for weight gain: “…changes in all body composition parameters, including fat and fat-free mass, body cell and extracellular mass, and total body water were relatively small for both groups with no obvious differences between treatments.”
If fear of weight gain is keeping you from using contraceptives, think again. The risks involved in not using contraceptives outweigh the low risk of added pounds. Choose your contraceptive method with open eyes, and put the focus on how it contributes to your lifestyle, not the scale.
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