Contraceptive pill

Does the Pill Make You Fat?

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Many women blame the pill for making them pile on the pounds but new research reveals there’s no clinical evidence to suggest that contraceptive pills cause weight gain. So why do many women associate weight gain with going on the pill?

Researchers at Family Health International – an American non-profit organisation that’s active in international public health – reviewed 44 hormonal contraceptive trials. Three of the trials compared weight changes in women taking the pill with women taking placebos. None of these showed a link between taking the pill and weight gain. The remaining trials compared weight changes between women taking different oral contraceptives. Over time, some women gained weight and some lost weight, but overall the differences between the groups were minimal.

Lead researcher Professor Lopez said, “There’s evidence that women may switch methods of birth control or stop using the pill because they think it contributes to weight gain. The good news is that this review found no evidence to support a causal association between combination contraceptives and weight gain.”

WLR says:

This study confirms what many health professionals have been saying for years – that the pill itself doesn’t actually cause weight gain. However, starting to take contraceptive pills often coincides with a lifestyle change – and this can result in changes to eating or drinking habits that pile on the pounds.

For example, women may start taking the pill once they feel more comfortable in a relationship or move in together, which often results in eating man-sized portions and taking less exercise.

It’s also important to realise that little changes can make big differences to your weight over time. For example, a weight gain of 7lb in a year might sound a lot – and be put down to taking the pill. But in fact, you only need to have 70 calories more than you need each day to gain this amount of weight. That’s as easy as having one biscuit, an extra couple of tablespoons of rice or pasta or a slightly larger glass of wine.

If you think the contraceptive pill has resulted in weight gain, it may be worth looking at how your lifestyle has changed since starting to take it. You might find you’ve replaced clubbing with the girls on Saturday night for quiet nights in with your partner, a takeaway and bottle of wine. Or perhaps you’ve stopped going to aerobics classes in favour of cooking big dinners together. Or maybe you’ve started a new job and now buy a cappuccino and muffin on your way to work, or succumb to the daily office chocolate run.

Once you start thinking about how your life has changed, you’ll probably realise that any weight you’ve gained has nothing to do with taking the pill at all. And once you’ve established this, you’ll find it much easier to start making positive lifestyle changes that will help to shift those excess pounds.

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