The birth control pill or the “pill” is used to prevent an undesired pregnancy. Over years, the pill has been blamed to cause weight gain, sex drive, and even affect the skin in a bad way. Which part is true? Which part is a myth? Let’s find out.
The following are the side effects of birth control pills:
- Weight gain or weight loss: Many women believe that the pill can cause weight gain, but there is no sustained evidence for this claim. However, the pill may alter the body fat storage and thus, may change the body shape. For most women, any birth control tools, pills, vaginal rings, or skin patches are very unlikely to affect their weight much. Some women gradually gain weight over the years due to water retention or suspected fat storage. Research has shown very contradictory results. Some women have claimed that they have gained weight whereas some reported losing weight. Therefore, both weight gain and weight loss can be listed as possible side effects of birth control pills.
- Improves or worsens skin issues: Birth control pills can be used to treat the signs of hyperandrogenism. This is especially seen in women who suffer from polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD). Hyperandrogenism can cause excessive hair growth, excessive acne, or hair loss in women. Birth control pills finetune the body’s hormonal setting and prevent hyperandrogenism. Thus, they can make the skin clearer, reduce facial hair, and increase the volume of the hair.
- Some women have the following skin issues while on the pill:
- Lowers or increases acne formation: Combination birth control pills improve the body’s estrogen to progesterone ratio. This helps resistant acne, which is resistant to acne gels and creams.
- Lower or increase unwanted hair growth: Birth control pills make the body produce fewer androgenic hormones. With regular use of certain types of birth control pills (especially estrogen and anti-androgenic progestin combination), there will be less facial hair. However, some women reported that they had experienced an increase in facial hair growth. The estrogen component could help decrease testosterone, which is also responsible for causing excessive facial hair growth (known as hirsutism).
Consult the doctor for other conditions that may cause these issues, such as PCOD (hormonal disorder). The doctor may switch to a different brand or another method of birth control if the pills causing an allergic reaction.
Why some gain weight during birth control?
Many women claim weight gain due to birth control pills. However, women usually put on weight due to one of the following changes.
- Fluid retention
- An increase in muscle tissue
- Increase in body fat
Hormonal birth control pills could contribute to weight gain (if they lead to fluid retention) and increase body fat. Some combination pills are claimed to increase appetite that can make women consume excess calories, leading to weight gain. However, it is not evident because women who do not use hormonal birth control pills can also put on weight as they age. Rarely, some women do put on a little bit of weight when they start taking birth control pills. It is often a temporary side effect that is due to fluid retention and not extra fat. Studies have shown no evidence of weight gain.
If facing any side effects, such as weight gain, it will generally be minimal and resolves within two to three months. There are two types of pills: the combination of estrogen with progestin and only progestin pills. Consult the doctor if putting on a few pounds, the doctor may change the prescription.
How does birth control pill work for skin problems?
The combination birth control pills suppress a hormone called luteinizing hormone (LH) that stimulates androgen (male trait hormones) production and increases female sex hormone-binding substance, globulin. This results in a lowering of free androgen levels, leading to improvement in acne and reduction in excess hair growth. Progestin hormone is weak androgen. Estrogen hormone can reduce acne production and androgens (male trait hormones that can aggravate acne).
The action of combination birth control pills depends on their estrogen-progestin (female trait hormone) balance. In these pills, the effects of estrogen outweigh the effects of progestin, therefore overall, it decreases androgen levels.
However, some older first and second-generation progestin may sometimes activate the androgen receptor and might worsen the acne outbreak. Therefore, consult the dermatologist before taking any pills for acne.
- Scans Show Brain Changes in People With Long COVID
- Got GERD? Eat This Way to Help Avoid Symptoms
- 5 Women Contracted Syphilis Affecting the Eyes From the Same Asymptomatic Man
- Long COVID Now Common in U.S. Nursing Homes
- Breathing in Coal-Based Pollution Could Be Especially Deadly: Study
- More Health News »
What are other side effects of birth control pills?
There are not many serious side effects of birth control, such as:
- Trigger migraines
- Unusual spotting between periods
- Swelling, redness, irritation, burning, or itching of the vagina
- White vaginal discharge
- Sore or swollen breasts
- Mood changes
- Reduced sex drive
- Blood clots (rare)
- Swollen gums
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- Dark-colored urine
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of energy
- May increase incidence of noncancerous breast lumps
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Teens Health. Birth Control Pill. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/contraception-birth.html
Medline Plus. Estrogen and Progestin (Oral Contraceptives). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a601050.html#if-i-forget
WebMD. Will Birth Control Pills Make Me Gain Weight? https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/birth-control-pills-weight-gain
InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Contraception: Do Hormonal Contraceptives Cause Weight Gain? Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441582/
WebMD. Hirsutism. https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/hirsutism-hair-women
Jiang C. Oral Contraceptives and the Skin. DermNet New Zealand. https://dermnetnz.org/topics/oral-contraceptive/
Top Does Birth Control Affect Your Appearance? Related Articles
Birth Control OptionsBirth control is available in a variety of methods and types. The method of birth control varies from person to person, and their preferences to either become pregnant or not. Examples of barrier methods include barrier methods (sponge, spermicides, condoms), hormonal methods (pill, patch), surgical sterilization (tubal ligation, vasectomy), natural methods, and the morning-after pill. Side effects and risks of each birth control option should be reviewed before using any birth control method.
Choosing Your Birth Control MethodWhich birth control option is right for you? Discover birth control methods such as birth control pills, birth control shot, implant, patch and more. Learn about birth control side effects and effectiveness.
Birth Control Quiz: Test Your Medical IQWhat is the best form of birth control? Take this quiz to find out about hormonal, surgical, barrier, and natural methods!
How Likely Is It To Get Pregnant with an IUD?Getting pregnant while you have an IUD is extremely rare. There is one out of a hundred chances that this could happen. However, it has happened before.
How Likely Is Pregnancy After Vasectomy?Despite having a very high success rate, there are still times when vasectomies fail. This is a rare situation. Less than 1% of vasectomies fail and result in pregnancies.
mifepristoneMifepristone (Mifeprex) is a synthetic steroid used to terminate early pregnancy. The Korlym brand of mifepristone is a cortisol receptor blocker, used to manage and treat high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) in people with Cushing’s syndrome. Serious and sometimes fatal infections and bleeding occur very rarely. A failed pregnancy termination could cause birth defects. Common side effects include abdominal pain and cramping, uterine cramping, nausea, fatigue, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, endometrial hypertrophy, low blood potassium (hypokalemia), joint pain (arthralgia), swelling of extremities (peripheral edema), and others.
nonoxynol-9 vaginalNonoxynol-9 vaginal is a spermicide used vaginally as a gel, foam, insert, film, or sponge to prevent pregnancy, usually in combination with other modes of contraception. The rate of unintended pregnancies with the use of nonxynol-9 products is generally higher than with other methods of contraception. Common side effects of nonoxynol-9 vaginal include local reactions in the penis or vagina (burning, irritation, rash, itching) and allergic contact dermatitis. Do not use while on menstrual period or if breastfeeding.
norethindrone (Nor QD, Nora-BE, Ortho Micronor)Norethindrone oral contraceptive is a prescription drug used to prevent pregnancy. Side effects include headache, nausea, dizziness, breast tenderness, irregular vaginal bleeding, acne, fatigue, and weight gain. Oral contraceptives are generally avoided during pregnancy. The use of birth control pills during lactation has been associated with decreased milk production.
Birth Control Pills (Oral Contraceptives)Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) are prescription medications that prevent pregnancy. Three combinations of birth control pills that contain progestin and estrogen are 1) monophasic, 2) biphasic, and 3) triphasic. Birth control pills may also be prescribed to reduce menstrual cramps or prevent anemia. Certain prescription medications may cause drug interactions. Some women experience various levels of side effects of birth control pills.