Despite Popular Belief, Oral Contraceptives Don’t Cause Weight Gain

By Emily Murray

Some will rejoice, others will curse the fact that they no longer have a place to cast the blame.

A new study reveals that the once widely believed notion that oral contraceptives cause weight gain in women can be laid to rest. Ladies, if you are gaining weight, you are going to have to start looking at other factors aside from your birth control pills.

The finding of this Oregon Health & Science University study are slated to be published in next month’s, Human Reproduction. When choosing a birth control method, women have balked for years when they hear the dreaded disclaimer “may cause weight gain.” With this side effect out of the way, perhaps more women will feel comfortable turning to oral contraception.

The study was conducted on the only animal known to have a near identical reproductive tract as the human – the primate, specifically the macaque monkey. Over the course of 8 months, the weight of the monkeys were tracked as they received oral contraceptives in the appropriate dosage for their size. The group was split into two groups – normal weight and obese.

What may be surprising to some is that the normal weight range group remained stable while the obese group actually lost weight while on the oral contraceptives. Both groups had their exercise and food intake monitored.

How does this translate into humans and the possibility for weight gain? Some are skeptical. While the monkeys rely on a set amount of food from researchers, humans are free to eat what they want, when they want and in most cases no one is there to tell them to stop when they are eating too much.

What we can take away from this study is that if we keep our exercise and food intake constant when we begin an oral contraception routine, we are likely to keep our weight constant as well. Many health care providers actually cite weight gain as one the most common side effects that influence whether women will choose to start taking them or not. From this study it seems apparent that the hormones in oral contraceptives can no longer be blamed for unwanted weight gain.

Like it or not, when it comes to weight gain, women get the short end of the stick. Our bodies and metabolisms work differently than our male peers and as we get older, our weight typically tends to increase as our metabolisms slows down. This may, in fact, be one of the reasons that so many people have believed for years that theses contraceptives were leading to weight gain. The extra pounds may have been completely unrelated.

If you are concerned about weight gain, exercise and healthy food need to become a part of your daily regime. As little as 30 minutes a day of brisk exercise can not only help ward off weight gain, but may actually help you shed some pounds. Try eating a diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat. Fiber is very handy for helping the digestive system function at its peak while also satiating hunger.