Birth Control That Doesn't Cause Weight Gain
Deciding on birth control is not always easy. There are many aspects to take into consideration which go beyond effectiveness. These considerations are often to do with how they affect the body. For example, many experience issues with comfort due to method of insertion. Others may develop an emotional or psychological issue due to the way in which the contraceptive affects hormones. Some claim to feel that certain contraceptive pills lead to putting on weight. If the last of these is the case for you, it is understandable you will be looking for birth control that doesn't cause weight gain. Whether you have pre-existing weight problems or simply want to maintain your current figure, oneHOWTO takes a look at what contraceptive options are available to you.
Does birth control cause weight gain?
The claim that birth control causes weight gain is one which is supported by many blogs and YouTube videos. Certainly, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to support it. However, if we look closer at the scientific evidence on the subject, then the truth is a little harder to discern.
To answer the questions over whether contraceptives cause weight gain, we need to be a little more specific. The types of contraception we need to consider are those which affect metabolism. This means we need to look at hormonal contraception. Condoms are a form of birth control, but they are used on the exterior of the body and have no direct effect on a person's hormones.
Perhaps the most commonly known hormonal contraceptive is a type of oral contraceptive known as ‘the pill’. The pill is a general term for the combined contraceptive pill. The combination of its namesake is of the hormones estrogen and progestin. These hormones have different formulations, but have the same essential effect in terms of contraception. The side effects, however, may vary according to formulation and brand.
Other types of contraceptive which can affect hormones include vaginal rings, hormonal IUDs, implants and skin patches. Some of these are combined, using estrogen and progestin together, or only use progestin. Updated in 2017, a report on the likelihood of combined hormonal contraception claims that none of the studies referenced “found by the researchers show a clear link between hormonal contraception and weight gain”. While the report also points out that research on the subject is unfortunately limited, it does suggest direct weight gain is unlikely.
With progestin only contraception, a 2015 study aimed to discover a link between it and weight gain. Similarly they found that there was “limited evidence of change in weight or body composition with use of [progestin only contraceptives]”. It appears that there is little to suggest a direct link between hormonal contraceptives and weight gain.
However, one of the major factors in choosing a contraception method is the individual. While there is little evidence to support a direct correlation between birth control and gaining weight, many women find that birth control affects their well-being. We can't completely negate the psychological effects of using birth control in a general sense as many women have understandable concerns over getting pregnant. There are also limitations to the research which may be better elucidated in the future. Here are some things to consider if you are worried about weight gain and contraception.
If you are concerned about putting on weight when using contraception, then many will look towards other methods. After hormonal contraception or other oral birth control, one of the most common methods is the barrier method. This is when a physical barrier is put in place to stop sperm and egg joining for fertilization. The types of barrier method include:
- Male condom: the male condom is a latex sleeve which is placed over the penis and prevents the sperm from entering the cervix by collecting it in a pocket at its tip.
- Female condom: the female condom is inserted into the vagina and form s a pouch to stop sperm entering in. Although it can be inserted up to 8 hours before sexual intercourse, it is less effective than the male condom.
- Cervical cap: smaller than the female condom, the cervical cap is a placed over the cervix only. Spermicide is also used to kill sperm before entering the cervix. While it can be relatively effective when used properly, part of the problem with this method is its actual effectiveness depends on correct usage. This is something which some users can find difficult.
- Diaphragm: another physical barrier method, the diaphragm is also placed over the cervix. It needs to be inserted by a doctor as not everyone uses the same size. It is not the most effective method and ha reduced in popularity thanks to alternative methods.
- Contraceptive sponge: this is similar to other barrier methods, except the sponge material is used in combination with spermicide to prevent pregnancy.
Other types of non-hormonal contraceptive methods exist. They include:
- IUD: intrauterine devices (IUDs) are commonly known as the coil. They are inserted into the vagina and the copper coil (where their name comes from) releases copper ions. These copper ions make the uterus a hostile environment to sperm. Hormonal IUDs also release progestin for extra protection. They can exacerbate period cramps and increase menstrual flow.
- Sterilization: tubal ligation is a method of contraception which uses surgery to close of the Fallopian tubes and, therefore, prevent fertilization. It does not protect against STDs.
- Withdrawal: this is when the male removes his penis before ejaculation. This is a risky and less effective method for many reasons.
The above methods of contraception do not affect hormones. If there were any link between weight gain and hormone imbalance due to contraception, then it would not apply here. However, there are so many other factors to consider when deciding on birth control. Oral birth control methods might have good effectiveness in terms of reducing pregnancy, but they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Neither do other hormonal methods such as the patch, IUDs or the ring. But what effect does this have on weight gain?
Depression and weight gain
When considering contraception, many worry that pre-existing mental health issues might be exacerbated by birth control methods. According to a 2016 study on the links between mental health and contraception, women “with depression and anxiety experience an elevated risk of intended pregnancy”. There are also links between weight gain and depression, a 2018 report showing that genetics also may be a factor.
If women are worried about their sexual health, whether it be the risks of pregnancy, fear of sexually transmitted disease or the myriad emotional aspects involved, then eating is often a way to cope with generalized anxiety and depression. Not having the right type of birth control for you might mean you are more anxious. Maybe you have had a pregnancy scare which has made you doubt your current method's effectiveness. Maybe another reason for a hormonal imbalance is pushing you to question other aspects of your health.
Another correlation might be helpful in understanding why you might be putting on weight when you start using a particular birth control method. People in relationships tend to put on more weight than their single counterparts, although there are many exceptions on both sides. Maybe you have started to use contraception because you have started a new relationship, but are incorrectly blaming birth control for increased weight.
There are many reasons why you might be gaining weight concurrently to using a particular method of contraception. We should think about what else is happening in our life to potentially increase our size.
How to choose the right contraceptive method for you
In saying that there may be different causes for weight gain, it is not always easy to determine what they may be. If you are worried about your weight when using birth control, many people will speak to their doctor to see if they can go on a low dose. While this might seem like it will provide benefit, it may only be a placebo.
Instead, you should speak to your doctor about a more general approach to choosing birth control. Find out what it is you are worried about in particular and how this might align to your lifestyle. If protection from sexual disease is not your main concern, then you may want to choose oral birth control or use an implant. If period problems are a particular problem, then you may want to stay away from IUDs. If weight gain is a problem for you, then your doctor may be able to help find a better solution which may not even require you to change birth control methods.
Your general practitioner may not be able to provide all the advice you need, so you can look to places such as Planned Parenthood or sexual health clinics who will be able to provide you further advice. If your mental health is affection your weight gain and is linked to birth control, speaking to a mental health professional would be ideal. The ideal method of birth control to avoid weight gain is up to the individual.
This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.
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