Due to the convoluted nature of the topic, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) did a deep dive into years of scientific research. What they found was eye-opening, to say the least: there was no conclusive evidence to back up these claims.
“Women often tell us that they do not want to start or to continue contraception because they are worried that it will make them gain weight,” Dr Sarah Hardman, director of the clinical effectiveness unit at the FSRH explained. “In studies, women gain on average a similar amount of weight over time whether they are using hormonal contraception or not. In other words, women may gain some weight during use of a contraceptive method, but so, on average, do women who are not using contraception."
These findings included data on almost all types of hormonal birth control, including:
- Intrauterine contraception (the IUD and IUS)
- The implant
- The progestogen-only pill
- The combined pill
- The patch
- The vaginal ring
The FSRH, however, did have one caveat: they couldn’t confirm or exclude a causative relationship between the contraceptive injection and subsequent weight gain.
“After looking at all the studies available, we can say that average weight gain during use of contraceptive pills, the implant and the hormonal coil is modest and is not significantly different to weight gain with no contraception or non-hormonal contraception,” Hardman added.
So… what about all the women who swear they put on weight straight after starting the pill? Experts put it down to fluid retention, which can be caused by high doses of oestrogen.
Bottom line: there are heaps of contraceptive options on the market, so if you feel like yours isn’t right for you, there might be another that is. Chat to your GP for more advice.