Baby Fat

Do birth control pills make women gain weight?

Christie Aschwanden

Birth control pills. Click image to expand.The Pill

Some women are getting pregnant to avoid getting fat. According to a review published in a recent issue of the journal Contraception, concern about weight gain is among the most common reasons people quit the pill (or decide not to take it in the first place), and most women who discontinue the pill switch to something less effective or nothing at all. Some of those women end up with unintended pregnancies simply because they feared a few extra pounds.

The notion that birth control pills make you fat is just part of what the paper’s lead author, physician David Grimes of the University of North Carolina, calls an elaborate mythology, one "fueled by rumor, gossip and poor-quality research." As it turns out, there’s never been convincing evidence that the pill in any of its forms provokes weight gain. Another recent review paper found little evidence of weight gain among users of progestin-only pills, and a similar study from 2008 likewise failed to find any connection between weight gain and pills that contain progestin and estrogen.

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