Taking the birth control pill or another type of hormone based contraceptive is extremely common. I am asked a LOT of questions from women, about weight loss and the birth control pill, if it affects their weight, health, hormones, etc.
A lot of the time, I feel like women are given the contraceptive pill by their doctors without really understanding the risks. I know I did!
Hormonal birth control methods include more than just the pill. Injections, patches, implants, and vaginal rings are all options for administration. Although they vary slightly, we’ll consider them together for this general discussion about the impact on the body.
In this blog post, I want to cover weight loss and the birth control pill. Plus other effects so that you can be more well informed.
How Does Hormonal Birth Control Work?
Birth control pills work by synthetically altering the hormones in your body. Most modern-day birth control pills contain both estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone which mimics actual progesterone).
These hormones prevent the release of an egg from the ovaries. Simultaneously, the lining of the uterus is thinned to discourage implantation if an egg is fertilised.
When taken properly, hormonal contraceptives can prevent pregnancy, regulate cycles, and lighten heavy or painful periods. But just like most medications, hormonal birth control also has a long list of negative side effects.
Let’s cover some of these side effects.
The birth control pill can in fact affect your weight. A lot of my girlfriends have stopped taking the pill because it caused them to gain weight. And a lot of people I know actually lose weight as soon as they stop taking the pill!
Sometimes the weight gain is just due to fluid retention (water weight). You might be able to overcome this by drinking lots of water or just letting your body adjust to the changes, but other times you can’t.
The pill can also change the way fat is distributed around your body. Curves and softness are the name of the game for female hormones (especially estrogen!). This could mean an increase in padding around the hips and thighs.
Depletion of Important Nutrients
This may not sound important at first. But nutrients actually makes a HUGE difference to your weight.
It is widely known that the contraceptive pill reduces your zinc levels. Zinc is super important for your adrenals and thyroid. Without it, they can’t function properly and this has a major effect on all of your hormones. Without your adrenals and thyroid functioning properly, you will gain weight.
The pill also reduces your magnesium levels. This is another nutrient that is important for your adrenals and thyroid (and hormone levels), but is also important for your blood sugar, insulin and metabolism.
The pill also reduces your selenium levels. Selenium is also important for your adrenals, thyroid and liver. It is used in every single cell of your thyroid! And a low functioning thyroid will 100% affect your weight.
Some of the other nutrients depleted by the birth control pill include Vitamins E, C, B6, B12, B9 and B2.
If you are taking the contraceptive pill, I would highly recommend getting these levels tested. If you are low in any of them, taking a good quality supplement might help (of course with the recommendation of your doctor or naturopath).
Some women also find their appetites increase when taking birth control —a side effect of the hormones and nutrient deficiencies. Increased appetite, of course, can result in weight gain. If you do decide to take hormonal birth control, you may need to counteract increased hunger by more carefully counting your caloric intake.
Women who take the pill may also notice an increase in breast size. This might seem like a benefit to some women, but it can also mean increased weight. Plus, breasts will likely shrink again when the pill is stopped—possibly leaving them a bit droopy.
Other Side Effects
Mood Changes and Depression
Taking synthetic hormones for pregnancy prevention may help with PMS. But it can also wreak havoc with emotions. The pill can cause sadness and kill your mood. In fact, pill users are estimated to have double the risk of depression. And what do many women do when we’re depressed or emotional? We eat!
Some other side effects include
- Low libido
- Reduced bone density
- Increased blood clots
- A higher risk of breast cancer
- Decreased memory and ability to concentrate
- Difficulty getting pregnant after use (due to your body needing to start producing its own hormones again – this can take anywhere from 1 month to several years)
What Are My Options?
If you choose to take a hormone based birth control, that is up to you. You need to make your own decision. But I would highly recommend educating yourself about what is going on in your body. A lot of these issues aren’t discussed with us by our doctor’s. I wish I had done my own research prior to taking the pill.
There are other plant based or bio-identical hormones that could have fewer side effects. Do your research and be an informed patient about other non-invasive, non-hormonal forms of pregnancy prevention that are available. Take your time and find the healthiest option that suits you.
In any case, please talk to your doctor before starting or stopping the pill. And it could be a good idea to have your health checked by your doctor or a naturopath.
I hope you found this blog post on weight loss and the birth control pill helpful! xx