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The Relationship Between Birth Control and Weight Gain

Fitday Editor
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The connection between oral contraceptives and weight gain has been the subject of many studies. One of the main conclusions of these studies is that birth control pills are able to cause weight gain in more than one way. Fortunately, there are ways of minimizing this side effect.

Comparison between the Effects of Various Contraceptives

According to several studies, both birth control pills and contraceptive shots, such as DeproProvera, can have weight gain as a side effect. The test involved teenagers who used these contraceptive measures for one year. After this period, the average weight gain of contraceptive shot users was of 6.6 pounds, while the teenagers that took birth control pills had an average weight gain of 5.3 pounds. In 7 percent of birth control pills users, the weight gain exceeded 10 percent. On the other hand, the weight gain exceeded 10 percent of the body weight in 25 percent of contraceptive shot users.

Oral Contraceptives and Water Retention

Birth control pills based on estrogen often lead to water retention. The amount of fluid that is retained is directly proportional with the quantity of estrogen found in the pill. The explanation is given by the fact that estrogen directly stimulates several compounds from the kidneys that lead to fluid retention. The compounds are known as renin-angiotensin. Oral contraceptives that contain around 20 mcg of estrogen are recommended for women who want to avoid fluid retention. Such a low concentration is known to be safe, according to several studies.

Birth Control Pills as Appetite Stimulants

The oral contraceptives that were developed in the past affected insulin resistance, and to some extent even the newer pills are able to elevate insulin levels. When these levels rise, the energy obtained from the ingested carbohydrates is distributed mainly to fat cells. As a consequence, weight loss is prevented, even when a diet is followed.

However, not all women who take birth control pills are predisposed to weight gain. This side effect of oral contraceptives is most frequently observed in women with an abnormal glucose metabolism. Insulin resistance should be analyzed if there are no other explanations for weight gain when taking birth control pills.

Measures to Minimize Weight Gain

As explained before, there is a tight connection between the estrogen concentration found in oral contraceptives and the number of extra pounds gained. Consequently, women are recommended to take birth control pills that contain as little estrogen as possible. At the moment, there are no contraceptives with less than 20 mcg of estrogen. You are highly recommended to talk to your health care provider if you gain weight while taking birth control pills with more estrogen. If the gained weight exceeds 5 percent of the body weight, this may indicate that you have either an abnormal glucose metabolism or insulin resistance. Besides changing the type of oral contraceptive that you take, you can also follow a diet that is low in carbohydrates, as these are the main cause of weight gain when you have an unusual glucose metabolism. By taking these measures, you may be able to avoid gaining extra pounds.

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