There is some cheerful news for the figure conscious young women who are on the contraceptive pill – it doesn’t actually cause weight gain. Many women want to avoid the pill because of worries about piling on the pounds, or giving it up when they suspect it is behind their weight gain. However, a thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has demonstrated that the combined contraceptive pill does not cause weight increase. The pill contains synthetic forms of the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone, used by an estimated 80 to 90 million women worldwide, including 400,000 from Sweden alone. In Sweden, it is the most popular contraception among women, according to a Gothenburg statement.
Ingela Lindh reports on a long-term study of 1,749 women born in 1962, 1972 and 1982 who answered questions about contraception, pregnancies, height/weight and smoking habits every five years from the age of 19 to 44. ”The women who were on the pill and were monitored from their teenage years until the age of 34 didn’t put on any more weight than their peers who had never taken the pill at all,” says Lindh, a registered midwife and researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy. The study also showed that the combined pill is the most widely used contraceptive up to the age of 29, after which condoms are most common. From the age of 32 onwards the coil proved most popular.
“There were lots of reasons why women came off the pill, including a fear of side-effects, weight gain and mood swings, and these gradually increased over time and were more common in the youngest group,” says Lindh. Despite women’s concerns about weight gain, the researchers did not find any link between being on the pill and putting on weight. The only factors that affected weight were ageing and smoking.