Like anatomy in general, birth control can be intimidating, confusing, and even a little scary. But it doesn’t have to be! While there are endless ideas about how birth control affects the body (it gives you acne, it makes you gain weight, it changes your moods, lo que sea), the truth is that everyone’s experience is different. For some, all of these claims might be true—and for others, none of them may be. Yet although each form of birth control impacts individuals in unique ways, there are definitely certain trends to watch out for. So if you’re curious about how birth control might affect your body, get ready for some seriously helpful—and possibly surprising!—information.
For years, many healthcare providers and users of birth control have believed that hormonal methods can lead to excessive weight gain. While bodies fluctuate and weight gain happens naturally for lots of different reasons, people often avoid this type of contraception—which includes the patch, the pill, monthly shots, and some IUDs—in order to avoid that alleged extra poundage.
However, many decades of research seem to dispel the myth that hormonal birth control leads to weight gain.
A 2014 review of 49 trials comparing 52 different birth control methods led to the conclusion that neither pill nor patch caused significant weight gain. Although “the evidence was not strong enough to be sure that these methods did not cause some weight change,” the reviewers found “no major effect on weight.”
Some studies focused on the combined pill (a version of the pill that contains many different—and often synthetic—hormones), while others investigated pills containing real progesterone, a hormone that our bodies naturally produce. The result was clear: no matter the contents, neither type of pill has a side effect of weight gain. Why, then, do we associate a higher number on the scale with the use of contraception?
According to Maria Gallo, an endocrinologist at Ohio State University who co-authored the review, the notion of weight gain as a symptom of birth control is rooted in a natural human bias.
Gallo suggests that when people are influenced by certain ideas or patterns (for example, if a small number of people report gaining weight after starting a new medication), those ideas seem to manifest in real life—even if the data doesn’t support those observations.
“It’s the same reason why there’s this idea that vaccines can cause health problems,” says Gallo. “If you give them to a population, you’re going to have some people who have health problems, whether they’re linked to the vaccine or not.”
In regard to the connection between weight and the pill, Gallo acknowledges that adults of both sexes gain roughly a pound each year, beginning in our early twenties. She points out that this is also the age when people start using contraception. Yet while Gallo asserts that the pill-weight connection is ultimately a myth—and that weight gain is likely attributed to different external factors—she confirms that the pill definitely does change the body in other ways.
Reviews indicate that birth control can change a body’s shape and composition, affecting muscle growth, fluid retention, and overall fat distribution.
A 2009 study showed that women taking a pill with a certain type of synthetic progesterone were unable to achieve their desired muscle gains. The fake progesterone, it turns out, was competing with a natural hormone called DHEA, which helps promote muscle growth. The impact of the synthetic progesterone kept women from meeting their desired fitness goals, because without a certain amount of DHEA, their bodies were incapable of supporting new muscle development.
On top of that, another study found that different hormones have different effects on fat cells. Estrogen and progesterone are responsible for feminine features, like wide hips, breasts, and booty. The fat that lives on these parts of the body is called subcutaneous fat, and it contains a large number of estrogen receptors. So, the study demonstrated that pills with higher estrogen levels often resulted in more subcutaneous fat and, therefore, a more “pear-shaped” silhouette.
And finally, the puffy feeling we all know too well—bloating—may also be a symptom of the pill. While we might feel bloated after un par de tacos or a big bucket of movie popcorn, that sensation is different than bloating caused by hormones. Estrogen impacts the way our bodies metabolize water, so high-estrogen birth control methods can make the body retain more fluid. Sometimes, this fluid seeps into fat cells, causing them to swell and create the illusion of weight gain. This means that while we may not actually be gaining weight, our clothes might fit differently, and we may feel sort of uncomfortable.
All in all, birth control can absolutely impact the way your body functions—it’s designed to do that! The trick is understanding your own body and finding a method that works for you and keeps you feeling healthy.
It’s been said before that humor that mocks normative values can be funny only “if the humor is non-threatening.”
Truth be told, however, most of us known when sexist humor is more harmful than it is funny. According to Research Gate “jokes targeting women were perceived to be less funny, more offensive, and more sexist than jokes targeting men. Additionally, greater perceptions of threat were related to greater perceptions of jokes as offensive and sexist. However, women were not more threatened than men by sexist jokes. While these findings were not entirely consistent with our hypotheses, our findings suggest disparagement humor targeting lower-status groups is perceived more negatively than disparagement humor targeting higher-status groups and these perceptions may be inextricably rooted in threat posed to lower-status groups.”
Women and men of Reddit seem to be able to understand this truth because recently, they’ve been taking these jokes and calling them out for what they are: ridiculous and not so funny.
Check it out below!
“Downplaying how horrible periods can be. I’ve seen so many men act like women are being babies on their period and it’s just enraging.”- OverallDisaster
“To couple with this: downplaying our emotions because of periods. Anger or sadness can’t possibly be because of a bad situation, it it must be because sHe’S oN HeR pErIoD.”- InnocenceMySister
“Literally. And it’s funny because the hormone that increases during a woman’s period that apparently makes them so “emotional” is testosterone.
Edit- My comment has been getting a lot of upvotes so I just want to take this opportunity to tell you all this. I know it can be hard being a woman and things can feel really bleak/tiresome sometimes (especially since it’s 2021 and we haven’t made nearly as much progress as we should have in regards to gender issues) but just remember to keep your head up. Things won’t be like this forever. They have to improve. Hopefully.”- aetnaaa
“I have pcos which also causes painful periods. Before I knew I had it, I never understood how other women could just “get used to” having periods. Lots of women also downplay how bad periods can be because they don’t know how painful some of our periods really are.”- tropicalparadise27
“Oh man and the first time a cyst ruptures… you’re laying on the bathroom floor thinking this is the end ans now you die and why didn’t I clean the bathroom more since this is where my body will be found.”- TaysteePotayto
“Same thing happened to me dude. I was in college, my roomate thought I was dying and I was like naw, don’t you also vomit till the point of fainting crying because of the knives in your intestines on your period? Not normal I guess.”- porkbunasaurus
“Or when women with easier periods act like other women are lying! I’m very lucky and have never had a difficult period, it’s light with very few symptoms. But that doesn’t mean that I doubt other women when they share their experiences. Just because mine is generally okay doesn’t mean that others don’t have excruciating pain.”- shadesofpink44
“Everyone has different experiences so I can only share mine. I get PMS about a week before I start and I start to get irrationally irritated or sad. Sometimes my boobs hurt or I can’t go to the bathroom for several days. I actually get super hungry the few days before too. Then when I start my period I have horrible cramps in my pelvic region and lower stomach. Sometimes they’re so bad they take my breath away. Sometimes they wake me up in the middle of the night and they’re so bad I could cry. I also have (TMI) really bad digestive issues and constantly have to go to the bathroom. I also get migraines with mine + sometimes that causes nausea. Not to mention the fact it’s uncomfortable having to wear a pad or tampon which can cause irritation. For me the first two days of mine are super heavy so I’m bleeding a lot, and the more you bleed the worse your cramps are. Its bad when you start bleeding a lot and you stand up and it all just gushes out. It’s just honestly horrible for me, especially the first two days but then mine kind of tapers off and gets better, but mine used to last up to a week. I can’t say I block it out as I’m very aware of the pain but I try to take pain medication, wear comfy clothes, use a heating pad if necessary. Sorry this might all be TMI lol, but there’s just so much going on and I think it’s good to build awareness about it!
As far as tips the biggest thing is just to be understanding and patient, never diminishing someone’s experience or pain. I also like when guys don’t act grossed out by it, to me it’s a sign of maturity when a man is able to listen and have an open conversation about it.”- OverallDisaster
“Indeed, I think that as a society we’re starting to grapple with the fact that pedophilia is far more common than people assumed. I remember that I was started to be catcalled at 11 and my teens and early 20’s were the highest, and now in my 40’s never happens and is awesome. Men know they’re sexually harassing children, and get away with it because people turn a blind eye, blame the kid, or chose the believe the obvious lie of: I had no idea she’s 12, she looks like a woman, I couldn’t tell her age, like wtf?!
“Yeah, it’s absolutely insane. I remember getting catcalled (very aggressively) as a 7th grader by grown ass men. I always thought it was because I looked older until I recently saw a picture of 12 year old me. Nope, looked like a child. I was utterly shocked, sad and disgusted at the same time.”-Shaboinker2
“This, just today I was catcalled and basically harassed to the point where I had to step back inside my house. I was simply standing in the front yard with my kids. That’s all I was doing.”- HumanAdhesiveness360
“That’s not it except for especially shitty guys.
It’s more likely that the men in question have had little to no experience with women and thus don’t have enough samples to distinguish between friendliness and flirting.
Plus, a shy woman’s flirting might be less obvious than an outgoing woman’s friendliness, so if they had a shy girlfriend before their calibration could be skewed.
Or they could just be interested and made a move in the hopes of success without assuming anything. Men have to approach frequently to get dates, so asking out literally anyone you find attractive is a fairly common strategy.
Men aren’t a monolith any more than women are and there are loads of explanations that don’t require the guy to be an asshole. Most of the time, the dude’s probably just lonely.”- Odinh153
“The way the medical community approaches female reproductive health in general is awful. A close friend wants to get sterilized because she already has two kids, gets awful depression during pregnancy, and post partum depression that makes her suicidal. She’s happy with her family and out of genuine concern for her daughters, wants to be sterilized so she can be the best mum possible to them. Basically no long-acting contraceptive methods are suitable for her… IUDs either cause persistent bleeding or keep dropping out, implants cause awful bleeding for months etc etc…
But my partner called up a vasectomy clinic, booked an appointment on the phone, and it was done in under a week. No questions asked, no “what if you change your mind”… my friend’s life is genuinely at risk if she gets pregnant again, and it would leave two kids without a mother, but years of trying can’t get her what a man can have for asking once.”- kellerae
“It is infuriating how women are treated during childbirth. Actually abused in other countries.
Also, what I hate is that women always say, well “it hurt but it’s okay”; usually when their tear or episiotomy is stitched up with either no local anesthetic or an insufficient amount. No, it is not okay! Would a man have a vasectomy without anesthetic?
Really annoying how we are expected to grin and bear it.”- Suse-
“I just went to the GP to get an extension for my time off work after having ovarian cyst removed. The male gp said to me “I used to be really stingy about giving time off work to my patients until I got a really bad chest infection myself” I was a bit taken aback in his comparison of a bad cold to my abdominal surgery.”- camelsdonthavetoes
“inappropriate behavior from men, especially from a young age. If a boy hits a little girl he “just likes her”. That little boy grows up thinking there’s no repercussion for violence, and keeps hitting women. The cycle just goes on.”-professional_joe
“I know way too many women who think it’s normal to have to do most of the housework and childcare, plus the mental and emotional load of household management, even if they also have an outside job. Also to manage their husbands as if they are children who can’t be expected to remember to make appointments or buy their own clothes or things for the children or holidays or take care of menial tasks without reminders and help.”-FranzLuciferdinand
“My mum managed my dad a lot when I was a kid, but he has genuine problems remembering things, and fortunately I internalized it as ‘Dad can’t remember things so Mom keeps track for him’, instead of believing that all wives manage their husband’s schedule and that’s the natural way of things. He did his fair share around the house and also in our housing co-op. Now that I’m older it makes me sad to know that my parents’ fairly equal arrangement is not the norm.”- ohdearsweetlord
”dressing little girls in a way that makes it difficult for them to move around. your four year old should not miss out on valuable play because she doesn’t want to mess up her clothes or hair. her appearance should be the last freaking thing on her mind. it makes me so angry to see little girls having to sit on the sidelines while their brothers and male cousins play rambunctiously because their parents put them in a dress and expensive shoes. i hate the bullshit propaganda that little girls “naturally” prefer playing quietly indoors and/or alone. sure, it may be true for some little girls (just like it’s also true for some little boys), but you cannot tell me that socialisation doesn’t play a massive role in what kind of play children “naturally” prefer.”-parezcounapina
The fight for women’s right to choose what to do with their bodies is a fight that continues to rage on throughout the world. That fight is especially intense in Latin American countries, where cultural attitudes towards sex and abortion are highly influenced by Roman Catholic ideals.
Recently, women in Chile were provided defective birth control pills from the government. The faulty contraceptives have resulted in at least 140 unplanned pregnancies.
The incident happened when the Chilean government–which is the primary method that women get birth control pills–distributed pill packs that were packaged incorrectly. The pill packs–which went by the name of Anulette CD–had placebo (“sugar pills”) in the place of the active pills.
Reproductive health advocates began hearing rumors that the government had issued defective birth control pills, so they did some investigating. One reproductive rights organization, Corporacion Miles, requested a formal inquiry into the rumors. Because of the inquiry, 276,890 packets of birth control pills were quietly recalled in August of last year.
These unplanned pregnancies are especially challenging because Chile, like many Latin American countries, have very restrictive abortion laws.
someone needs to go to prison for that. saddling people with unwanted children is a crime against humanity.
Unless a woman has been sexually assaulted or her life is in danger, it is hard to get an abortion in Chile. Because of these laws, women have little means to deal with these unplanned pregnancies. Either that, or they can opt for a clandestine abortion, where their lives could potentially be put at risk.
The Chilean women who became pregnant, after taking every precaution to prevent such a thing from happening, are scared. Many of them, already feeling strained from the emotional and financial strains of the pandemic, don’t feel ready to have a child.
“I don’t think people grasp how hard it is to be a mother for a woman who is not ready,” said Marlisett Guisel Rain Rain, a mother of three who became pregnant with her fourth child after taking the defective birth control pills. “You have to rebuild yourself completely.”
Both the government and the contraceptive manufacturer are pointing fingers at each other for who is to take the blame.
Let women choose. Way too many variables to draft one size fits all laws.
The pill manufacturers are claiming that they have had “no reports” of unplanned pregnancies after taking their pills. But they also insist that if the pills were defective, healthcare workers should have noticed the problem before distributing them. In response, the Chilean government is fining the manufacturer $92,000 due to “quality problems”.
“Women were trusting the pills they were given by state-run clinics,” said said Anita Peña Saavedra, director of Corporacion Miles. “The fault is not only with the laboratory but also with the government. They are both responsible.”
Thankfully, Corporacion Miles is taking legal action on behalf of all of the women who became unwittingly pregnant while taking the defective pills.
"women aged 40 who had interrupted their careers for at least 3 years for maternity or family leave were earning about 30% less than women with no children. The double-duty demands of home and workplace force many women to sacrifice their long-term economic security.
The only bright side that reproductive rights activists see is that this debacle might inspire Chileans to reconsider the countries strict anti-abortion laws come November, when the country will vote on a new government and new constitution.
“This is a very emblematic case to show why having [three legal exceptions] is just not enough and why it is always important to have access to free and legal abortion,” said Paula Avila, a human rights lawyer and head of the U.S.-based Women’s Equality Center.