Birth Control and Weight Gain: Where Science and Reality Collide

by Charlotte on December 13, 2009 · 89 comments

Reader Joshua was so amused by this pic, he had to add on his own ideas: “”Burger King – Have it Your Way” It just lends itself to the product. And then, sad as it is, my mind starts racing to other brand names that could be used in this manner. “Doral – Taste Me, Taste Me” “Hungry Man – How Do You Handle A Hungry Man?” or “Hungry Man – A Man Handler” which seems more appropriate. I’m going to stop now because I could do this all day. (That was an intentional pun, by the way).” It cracked me up so much, I’m bumping his comment up here. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

As any woman of child bearing age knows, there is currently a large debate going on between the scientific community and women everywhere. It involves a lot of numbers, studies, anecdotal experiences, thousands of websites and, yes, lot of tears (hormones are involved) but it distills down to this:

Science: Birth control does not cause weight gain!

Women: YES IT DOES AND I HAVE THE HIPS TO PROVE IT.

Here’s the problem – a very large and reputable study that came out earlier this year claims to have discovered once and for all that women on the pill don’t gain any more weight than women not on the pill. These results don’t jive with reality however.

Case #1, Gym Buddy X: Earlier this year she had the Mirena IUD, an intrauterine device that releases progesterone, put in. She immediately gained ten pounds and added an additional ten over the next few months. No matter what she did (and she is a very avid exerciser, I can vouch for that!) she was unable to lose them. She finally got it removed and lost 4 pounds that same week. Weight loss has been steady ever since.

Case #2, Gym Buddy Y: Recently she had the Mirena IUD put in after having a baby and while she had been steadily losing weight up to that point, suddenly her weight reversed itself and she has been gaining ever since. Obviously this does not make her happy.

Both Gym Buddies were told by their doctors that the Mirena did not cause their weight gain but reality begs to differ.

Men and Women are Not the Same
You might not have heard this but boys and girls are different. (Side note: thanks to Baby Sister, my three-year-old has discovered that not all people possess a penis – a fact he likes to point out loudly in public places. As in, “Mommy! Wook at dat lady! She not has a penis? Hey lady, you has no penis?!” Fun!) A man, once he has reached his adult size, may reasonably be expected to maintain that weight or close to it for the rest of his life. A woman however, if she chooses to have children will be forced by her biology to gain a lot of weight and then lose it in a relatively short amount of time and may even repeat the cycle multiple times if she wants more than one child. Even if she doesn’t have children, her body still prepares every month for one and her hormones go up accordingly. All of this up-and-down with the weight and the hormones makes weight loss and maintenance an entirely different animal for women than it is for men. And so it is that hormonal birth control and weight become inextricably linked for us girls.

Which is why I can’t buy the theory that birth control does not cause weight gain. Yes, I read the recent research showing that women on birth control don’t gain any more weight than women not on it but there are several factors the researchers did not examine. For instance, the study only looked at one type of pill when there are many many hormonal birth control options available. In addition, other research has shown that birth control pills cause women to lose muscle mass. So it only makes sense to me that if our bodies gain fat and lose muscle during pregnancy through the use of hormones then the artificial manipulation of those hormones via birth control will also impact weight. Besides, a million anecdotal stories on the Internet can’t all be wrong. Just Google “weight gain and birth control” to see what I mean.

Types of Birth Control
Not to get all 8th-grade health class up in here but basically you have two types of birth control: hormonal and non-hormonal. Non-hormonal sounds better right off the bat but currently it only includes two options – the Paraguard (copper T) IUD and condoms. The first works great – I had it before and loved it – except that it makes normal periods heavy and heavy periods unlivable, which is why I can’t use it again. As for the second, well, if I have to tell you why condoms suck then you are probably still a virgin and don’t need this advice. (Notice I did not mention the “rhythm method” as an option. I am so fertile that I don’t even dare wash my husband’s and my underwear together much less risk the calendar method.)

Which leaves us with hormonal birth control. You’ve got the patch, the shot, the Mirena IUD, the ring, 200 different types of The Pill and that weird thingie you get stuck under the skin in your arm. Did I miss anything? The problem, as it relates to weight gain, is that all of these options mess with your hormones. Most of them operate by simulating low levels of the pregnancy hormones thereby tricking your body into not ovulating. Low-level pregnant is not what I want my body to think it is.

After much histrionics (mostly on my part), fervent discussion whilst power walking the track with the Gym Buddies, conducting an informal Facebook poll (most popular answer? Abstinence… har, har, har) and hours of scouring weight loss sites, I have finally concluded that the three types of hormonal birth control least likely to make you gain weight are:
1. Yasmin (not to be confused with Yaz) – the pill marketed for PMDD.
2. The Nuva Ring
3. Ortho-tricyclin Lo

Unfortunately none of them are an option for me as I’m nursing. Why don’t uteruses (uteri?) just come with an on/off switch?!

It is a cruel trick of our womanly nature that most of the ways to prevent pregnancy – a condition noted for its weight gain – cause weight gain. So what does a healthy-eating, frequent-exercising, mama-of-enough-kids do? Now that the Jelly Bean is out, I am trying to decide the best way to prevent any more Beans while at the same time dropping those last (always problematic) 10 pregnancy pounds. So help a blogger out: tell me your thoughts on birth control and weight. Did you gain weight? Lose weight? Go crazy? Which ones worked for you?

PS> I ran this post by my sister earlier as she’s my inappropriate-joke filter (believe me, she has saved you guys from my warped sense of humor on more than one occasion) and her comment? “Charlotte, there is more to life than what you weigh.” Which I suppose means that if 10 pounds is the price I have to pay to not get pregnant again, then perhaps I should just accept it and find more important things to worry about. Sigh.

{ 88 comments… read them below or add one }

azusmom December 15, 2009 at 4:35 am

Oh, the craziness of birth control!!!! I spent many hours pulling at my own hair and screaming at so-called experts who INSISTED the 10 pounds I gained in the week after I started the Pill couldn't POSSIBLY be FROM the Pill, 'cause it doesn't cause weight gain.
Yeah. Uh-huh.
The decision was made for me a few years ago, when I was diagnosed with a mild condition that does not allow me to use hormones. So I went from the Nuva Ring (which I highly recommend) to a non-hormonal IUD (also recommend, if you don't already have heavy periods).
I've considered a hysterectomy, but there's that part of me that thinks if you're gonna cut me open, it should be in order to save my life (which is why I'd never be a good candidate for plastic surgery). I suppose I could try and talk hubby into a vasectomy…(Yeah, right!)

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Anonymous December 15, 2009 at 5:58 am

I read of a study that found that women on birth control pills have a harder time gaining muscle mass than non-pill women. I went off the pill recently and immediately lost 3 lbs. Nuva Ring made my hair fall out! This is a listed side effect, which I leanred when I consulted the insert when I could not figure out why my hair was falling out!

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Julie December 15, 2009 at 6:23 am

I think that it's important to talk about. In my particular situation, I was put on birth control at age 11 for horrific, irregular periods. I always had trouble with athletics… When I asked my doctor why I couldn't ever seem to run as fast as the other girls no matter how hard I trained, she told me it was because I had "birthing hips, not runner's hips".

As per my doctor's orders, I stayed on birth control all through high school and when I got to college, they decided to put me on this great new drug that would make my painful periods go away completely. So I was on the Depo Provera shot for three years, in which I gained 80 lbs, which I still have yet to lose.

The thing that we didn't know about my family history at that point was that there was both a history of depression and a history of hypothyroidism. Both were completely latent until I was put on the shot. I have been dealing with them both plus the weight gain for the last nine years and it infuriates me to read studies that say birth control doesn't cause weight gain. IT DOES!!

It can cause far worse things, too…

My story may be more extreme than most, but as a cautionary tale, I truly would counsel any woman considering any type of birth control to weigh her options carefully. Because it may be costing her much more than an extra 10 lbs.

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M December 15, 2009 at 6:37 am

Mmmm…I've been on the pill for 5 years and I've just found it harder to lose weight and easier to gain, not that the pill itself has made me gain weight. I think it just makes my body better at holding onto it.

Also, Yasmin is working well for me, but Alesse gave me crazy bad depression (which, FYI I realized after spending 3 years on that pill and feeling progressively worse).

Also, your sister seems to be a wiser woman than most….I wish my sister had useful things to say. Most of her comments revolve around what sort of shoes she recently bought…

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Joshua December 15, 2009 at 11:04 am

I'm a guy. Therefore it is inappropriate for me to talk about women's weight.

However, I can talk about burth control. That picture made my morning. Hopefully I'll be able to remember it when I'm stuck in meetings today. They forgot one really important brand for those condoms, though:

"Burger King – Have it Your Way"

It just lends itself to the product. And then, sad as it is, my mind starts racing to other brand names that could be used in this manner. "Doral – Taste Me, Taste Me" "Hungry Man – How Do You Handle A Hungry Man?" or "Hungry Man – A Man Handler" which seems more appropriate.

I'm going to stop now because I could do this all day. (That was an intentional pun, by the way).

-Joshua

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KUrunner December 15, 2009 at 11:58 am

I gained weight on the pill, but I think it was because I was no longer "dating" but in a serious relationship. After someone has seen you without makeup in your period underwear, shunning that candy bar isn't nearly as important.

Of course, the hormones in the pill also made me a raving lunatic.

After trying several different pills and a husband telling a doctor he would prefer 20 kids over my mood swings, I switched to Natural Family Planning* (ie the Catholic birth control.) Ok, I know that the stereotypical Catholic has almost as many kids as the Duggars, but I used the method for almost 5 years with complete success. I loved it, because you get to know your own body and when used correctly, no babies pop out nine months later. The downsides are that like the pill there is a daily commitment and you have to abstain or use condoms for a week each month. The upside was no hormones and I knew my cycle so well that we conceived the first month we tried. Of course, success rates seem to go down when you are breastfeeding, so I'm looking towards Paraguard until the baby is weaned. Hormones and me do NOT mix.

On a side note, I'm not sure if you a breastfeeding, but with my first kid, I couldn't lose the last 10 lbs until I weaned her. Then *poof* 15 lbs gone.

*Natural Family Planning is NOT the Rhythm Method. There is a great, non-Catholic scientific book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility that explains it in great detail.

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Luann December 15, 2009 at 12:42 pm

one word….VASECTOMY!!!……

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POD December 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm

I had my tubes tied on the delivery table and have had a fat butt ever since. So there's more backup (PUN!) material for your hypothesis.

If you gain enough weight, you won't have to worry about getting pregnant again because your body will probably stop having periods and will produce gobs of estrogen (which are thought to aid in a cancer dx). Either that or you'll bleed all the time. Such great choices!

i had friends who breast -fed their weight off. Is that working for you?

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Granite Gourmet December 15, 2009 at 1:12 pm

"Charlotte, there is more to life than what you weigh." I hear this all the time, but then I can't understand why, when I lose a few pounds, society in general acts like I just cured frickin' cancer. I am petted and I am praised like SUCH A GOOD GIRL. There is a disconnect between theory and practice. I didn't notice the diaphram on your list of non-hormonal types of BC. Is that an option?

An anecdote about weight gain and that weird thingy you stick in your arm (Depo?) … my high school friend had it put in after the birth of her first child. It was a few weeks after he was born. She didn't gain weight, but she immediately stopped losing the baby weight. Couldn't lose a thing as long as she used Depo. YIKES.

Or there's always the snippity snip for Mr. Husband.

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Granite Gourmet December 15, 2009 at 1:17 pm

oh wait… come to think of it, Charlotte…. you're basically looking for a BC to use while you're breastfeeding. So if the BC makes you gain a little weight, it's probably not that big of a deal, because you'll need to carry a little spare change on your body while you're breastfeeding anyway. Once the little JB is weened, you can hop on a non-weight gainy BC? Yes?

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sarah December 15, 2009 at 1:28 pm

well, not to point out the obvious, but once finished having kids, wonderful non-hormonal options are:

1) vascectomy
2) tubal ligation

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sarah December 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

PS: anecdotal, but i did effortlessly lose about 5-7 lbs after stopping seasonale. and i wasn't overweight to begin with.

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Azusmom – I have already accepted the fact that someday I probably end up with a hysterectomy. In the meantime, I'll keep the ring in mind for when I quit nursing.

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Anonymous (1) – Yeah, I linked to that study in the above post. It appears to be true.

And the Nuva ring made your hair fall out? But Azusmom loved it! GAHhhhh!

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Julie – I cannot believe that any doc would tell you you can't run because of "birthing hips"!! That said, I gotta use some kind of birth control or I'll end up like the DUggars and I don't want to get on reality TV. At least not THAT way;)

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JavaChick December 15, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Interesting. I've never been on the pill. I'm still chubby, which is a phenomenon that started when I began working full time at a desk job (which is not to say that I eat perfectly either, but that's when I started to gain weight). However, I don't seem to have trouble putting on muscle. Especially since I've been doing the Fit Chick Express workouts that have you switching routines every 4 to 6 weeks, I've noticed I can see the muscle definition in my arms & legs changing. Not that I'm extremely muscular or anything, just that I respond quickly to weight training. If only that would make me lose 10 or 20 pounds. :(

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

M – I've heard a lot of women say that about the pill: that it makes weight loss harder. And also that it was a slow slide over years.

PS> My sister is the best! Everyone should have my sister. Except I hate sharing:)

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liyaface December 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm

I've been on both Yaz and OTC-Lo, and neither have caused me to gain weight, though research regarding the loss of muscle mass seems to make a lot of sense. I feel like I have been having trouble building muscle, whereas before the pill it was always really easy for me.

So it's not weight gain … but who wants a larger percentage of her body to be composed of fat instead of muscle? NOT ME!!! Maybe I should consider the IUD, though having my period arrive in a consistent and short fashion has been an upside of the pill for me!!

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:51 pm

KUrunner – Yes, I am breast feeding so no hormones for me. Plus, like you, hormones make me NUTTY.

And I've read Taking Charge of Your Fertility! It's a great book. It's how we got pregnant with my first son. But you are right about it not working as well during nursing. And also, my body has some wacked chemistry because my basal temp isn't always indicative of ovulation… we found that out the hard way:)

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Luann – Talk to my husband, will ya??

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm

POD – Breast feeding helps me lose most of the baby weight (i'm down to the last 10 pounds now) but those last 10 pounds will probably stay on until I wean her. Not that I like that but it seems to be a fact of my nature that my body thinks there might be a famine in two seconds and keeps my thighs as a lunch box for baby.

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Granite Gourmet – SO TRUE about the societal disconnect. "frickin' cured cancer" – ROFL!

I totally forgot about teh diaphragm!! I'll ask my doctor about it:) Thanks!

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 1:57 pm

sarah – yes, the snippity-snip and the Essure (a newer form of tubal ligation that doesn't require surgery but is still permanent) have both been bandied about in our household. While we are done having kids, we're not ready to make a permanent committment just quite yet.

And your anecdote? I've heard that same story about 1000 times this past week. I swear it's true.

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Charlotte December 15, 2009 at 2:00 pm

Javachick and Liyaface – I'm jealous of girls who put on muscle easily! That's never been my forte. And yes – nobody wants squishy fat instead of lean muscle!! Argh.

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Joshua December 15, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Electrolux was one of the more risque slogans: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."

I really need to stop now.

-Joshua

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NeverSayDiet December 15, 2009 at 2:30 pm

a) your sister sounds like a smart chick, altho I'd never say gaining 10 pounds is 'no big dela' – I totally get that it is, but compared with an unwanted pregnancy, it's nothing. But women shoildn't have to choose.
b) "if I have to tell you why condoms suck then you are probably still a virgin and don't need this advice" might be the raciest thing you've ever written. Me likey.

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Sagan December 15, 2009 at 2:53 pm

I've never gained weight from birth control, but there's been a few times when it's caused my emotions to go HAYWIRE. I hate that.

Anyway, I can definitely see that the pill might make hormonal changes and cause people to gain weight; I think it just depends on the person and how they react, and which brand of the pill they're using.

Anyhow, I think that the pill is worth it to preventing children from happening for those of us who aren't quite in that place in our lives to have children :) It's the only kind of medication I'll take.

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VaMomof2 December 15, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I tried every kind of pill and either gained weight or just felt icky. Thus after daughter #2, husband got a vasectomy. Actually his idea because he knew the pill drove me crazy and also knew that I was way too fertile – 2 pregnancies we did not plan – I just ovulate alot! After everything I went through to have our 2 daughters, he felt the little snip was the least he could do. He followed all the doctors orders and recovered very quickly.

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Charise December 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Hi Charlotte! This one hit a soft spot in me as I recently (read: a little over a month ago) stopped taking Marvelon 21, which is a super-low side effect birth control pill. I've been on it for over 5 years and decided I wanted to see what life was like on the other side of the fence. Within the first two weeks, my sugar cravings stopped. I've been experiencing extreme cravings (read: pregnancy-like) for anything high-calorie for at least two years now. Like drug-withdrawal cravings. I stopped the pill, I stopped the cravings. I'm a little happier mood-wise, but my first period off the pill was extremely heavy for three days before tapering off. I was also on a mild antidepressant for 9 months which I stopped a year ago (side effects included yawning? weight gain and carb cravings, even for up to a year after going off the damn things) so ceasing the pill was probably a good move for my weight. Anything other than a low-side effect pill causes mood swings, savage weight gain, and, the real kicker, no libido. Now that's a cruel joke – for women who want to have safe sex, lets give them something that makes them fat, grumpy, and completely not interested in anything but chocolate sprinkles. Condoms are awesome if used correctly. I'm past the point of caring if it causes the guy to lose a little sensitivity if it means no kids for me and no messy clean up afterwards. And any guy that doesn't feel the condom break if such a bad thing were to happen, seriously needs to get his head checked. It's like a balloon popping. Inside you.
Also, when my sister was little, for some reason my parents called them "balls" instead of a "penis" so my sister would repeatedly ask "Mama, does he have BALLS?" in crowded public locations. Hilarity ensued and the story is still told to this day.
Great post!

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Geosomin December 15, 2009 at 3:19 pm

If you're done having your baby beans, perhaps having your tubes tied (or your husbands, as it's a simpler surgery) would be the way to go. No hormones and you're safe…but no going back.

I know many people who gained about 10 lb after starting the pill. It's not so much the pill as the increased appetite that seems to come with it. I didn't have that, but I was already rather plump…I've been on the same combo pill for years and am pretty happy and level, but everyone is different. I don't know why people get so surprised about it – you can't trick your body into thinking it's prego all the time and not expect the dod thing to happen…

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Anonymous December 15, 2009 at 3:22 pm

I hate to be the [older] one to break it to you, but this viciousness does not stop after one's child-bearing years. There's a trick to getting HRT right without gaining weight, too. That is unless you go without entirely, which is a possibility – but most women will likely need some kind of hormone adjustment, at least temporarily.

For anyone who thinks hysterectomy will solve the hormone-weight-gain thing, think again.

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halima December 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I actually had a gyno tell me once that she lost weight on the pill cause she ate less because she thought she would gain. i don't think i gained per se but the pill did make me more susceptible to gain and harder to lose. i also am trying to lose the last 10lbs and thought of mirena but after hearing about weight gain i said hells no, i will just abstain! oh and after getting of the pill 2 times i instantly lost 5lbs!!

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jessica December 15, 2009 at 3:45 pm

i wanted to give a strong warning about Yaz (Yasmin)…

that pill is marketed for PMS and PMDD and has an ingredient that's designed to help with those symptoms. however, what the pharmaceutical company isn't so quick to disclose is that the 'extra' ingredient actually increases the user's risk of stroke and clotting issues.

the FDA issued a warning/censure to the manufacturer earlier this year and there are many class action law suits pending at this time.

i speak from experience as a couple of years ago i narrowly survived bilateral acute pulmonary embolisms while taking Yaz. i had no other risk factors (non-smoker, healthy weight, low bp, etc, etc) and the medical community blamed Yaz as the sole cause.

just a warning.. since i saw you mention it as the first of your 3 options. please research this pill before you make that choice! :)

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Erika December 15, 2009 at 3:47 pm

well, I definitely buy the arguement that the pill and other bc make you gain weight. Mine was changed two months ago due to some insurance issue (generic vs brand – another issue entirely) and I have gained 8 pounds. I first thought it was halloween weight. But no amount of calorie counting, cardio, yoga, weights, etc has even dented the 8 pounds. And I can usually lose at least a pound or two pretty easily. So annoyed since my pants are increasingly riding up my arse and I refuse to buy a new size.

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marathonmaiden December 15, 2009 at 4:07 pm

great informative post. so far i haven't noticed any weight gain at all from being on the pill so i'm really skeptical about the gain weight from the pill idea. that said, everyone is different and every pill is different. i just hate it when ppl blame their weight gain 100% on the pill and won't even consider that other factors might be in play

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Mary K December 15, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I've been on the NuvaRing for four years. The only issue I have had is once it fell out :/

I even had the doctor look for it, which wasn't pleasant at all. I'll let you guys imagine how that could have happened.

I'm a forgetful person and taking a daily pill just wasn't for me. Plus, my periods got lighter, most of the time I don't even need tampons, just a little pad.

I'm a big supporter of the Ring. I never noticed weight gain on it.

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Dr. J December 15, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Certainly not my area of expertise!

From what I've seen, birth control pills are available in several dose types. The "low" dose varieties seem to have fewer side effects, but I think have to be taken on a rigid schedule. I suspect there is a variety of effects as we are dealing with hormones here. If you look at the side effects with Prozac, for example, both weight loss and weight gain are listed as side effects. What does that tell you??

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Jo December 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm

A plug here for the cervical cap: it's smaller than the diaphragm, easy to use, and has a nice success rate when used consistently.

Also, I got a Mirena IUD and had zero change from my Pill weight. What happened instead was that I quit retaining water around my period for a while, so my weight zigzagged more than when I was on Ortho-Novum 1/35. The water gain has since returned, but *shrug*.

The only thing that's ever made a difference for me as far as weight goes is Weight Watchers.

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Nathalie December 15, 2009 at 4:45 pm

I started using the pill about 5 years ago, but not for birth control: to control my flow and my mood. My natural cycle includes extreme fluctuations in hormones so I was extremely depressed 2 weeks per month to the point that I was suicidal and picking fights with everyone, then euphoric around the time I ovulated. I also had very heavy periods with horrible cramps and migraines that lasted 7-8 days. After a fews years of this roller-coaster, each month worse than the last, I went to see a psychologist (I though I was bipolar) and talking to her made me realize it was hormone-related.

Within a month or 2 of using the pill I stopped being depressed altogether and I got down to a normal flow lasting 3-4 days. Last year I switched to Depo Provera (shot) instead because I was forgetting to take the pill several days per month, which doesn't matter for the mood but matters a lot for the birth control.

I can't say if the pill made me gain weight, because at that point I had moved out and I was either eating cafeteria food or eating way to much (I was still used to cooking for a family of 6 instead of 1!). During those 4 years I did gain about 40 lbs. I started being focused on loosing weight right before switching to the shot, so I know the shot makes it so much harder to lose weight! Prior to switching I lost 10 lbs in about 2 months (so a little more than a pound per week), but after it's been so much slower (less than 2lbs per month) even if I'm doing the same things to lose.

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Nathalie December 15, 2009 at 4:49 pm

oh and I forgot to add the shot evened out my mood even better than the pill, but it makes me loose hair like crazy!

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Michelle December 15, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I was on the pill for about two weeks and I would cry for hours then stay in bed for days. The next day I was running around crazy. No thanks. I have four children and they all were planned since I have extremely difficult pregnancies. However, it only took once each to get pregnant. Needless to say, we carefully considered our options so that there were no accidents. I soul searched long and hard and we came up with condoms. Really, not so bad. I also am finished having children, but couldn't commit to permanent measures. My choice, if I ever go through with it, is Essure. The hormone levels are not messed with and it is relatively simple.

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Shelly December 15, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I am lucky enough that the pill doesn't seem to make me gain weight. Of course, I've been on it since I was a 19 year old string bean and I've gained weight since then, but I think that has more to do with age and lifestyle. Plus, I honestly needed a pound or five.
I would like to caution you about the low dose bc pills b/c I, for some reason, can't handle them. My doctor, seeing that I was a 19 year old string bean, initially put me on a low dose pill (Alesse). I didn't have a period for 3 months, then had a giant horrendous one for an entire month. No Thank You!
I was on Ortho Tri Cyclen for 7 or 8 years but my period started arriving sooner and sooner and when it finally started before I took my first blank pill, my Dr. told me that it was because my body was too accustomed to my particular pill.
She switched me to Loestrin FE. First of all, that stuff is $50 with no generic. Ugh! It also gave me a panic attack and a a few spot of melasma on my cheeks. So again, no thank you.
Now I'm on plain old orthocyclen and everything is fine again.
I'm just saying that Low hormone pills can also affect you adversely. I think my body needs a higher dose for it to be effective in me.

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Katie P. December 15, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Another anecdote, but I LOSE weight when I'm on the pill. When I'm on the pill, I don't have the huge swing every month where I gain four pounds in water, and when I'm on the pill it is easier to lost weight in general. If the hormones swings make it harder to control and understand our own weight, then putting ourselves on artificial hormones that don't wobble all over the place should do wonders.

It did exactly that for me.

I trust an aggregate study over a collection of anecdotes any day.

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Fit Mama December 15, 2009 at 5:47 pm

I love your comment about being so fertile you don't wash your underwear together! Sounds like me!

I have horrible reactions to hormones, and can't take generic BCP without ending up in the mental hospital. After our daughter was born, I took Yaz with no problem – no weight gain, nothing too crazy with my mood – just super expensive.

When I went off Yaz and Celexa in order to conceive this little one, I gained 10 lbs immediately. I'm not sure what caused it – the pill or the antidepressants or the lack of caring about my weight because I was hoping to balloon up to pregnancy size – but I could not budge it for the six weeks it took us to make this baby.

I was planning on getting Mirena after this baby, since we will probably be done, but are too young to make permanent changes, but after seeing that Mirena may cause the same problems as the BCP, I might look into something else!

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Anonymous December 15, 2009 at 6:46 pm

I've had very little side effects with Alesse and was on it for 3 years. No weight changes at all. No noticable change in ability to build muscle. Only side effect was that I was a little less interested in sex. Which was worth it for the peace of mind, because if I didn't have a BC method I wouldn't want to have sex at all! :0)

Now trying to start a family…

LG

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FitEater December 15, 2009 at 7:22 pm

I'm convinced that birth control pills make you gain weight on the theory that they make you feel like you have PMS all the time, so you crave chocolate and other high-calorie foods more often. I do think that the dosage level plays a part and that lower-dose pills lead to less weight gain.

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Anonymous December 15, 2009 at 7:25 pm

I hate taking the pill. I do it because I am a firm believer in not allowing "preventable accidents" to occur.

My problems stem from the types of hormones in pills. I took ortho triclycine for years. Then finally realized that the reason I was such a crabby pants was the pill. I also gained weight steadily and could not lose any of it no matter what "diet" I tried.

I then switched to Yasmin. My breasts thought that I was pregnant and that they needed to start producing milk. I ended up with inflamed milk ducts and infections in them. After seeing 3 doctors I finally got one who could tell me what was going on. It turns out that it was the type of BC I was taking. Since then I have never had a doctor who believed me when I explained to them why they can't give me certain BC pills. One told me it was impossible.

It turns out that I can only take synthetic hormones or my body goes into overdrive.

I quit taking the pill and used condoms for 3 months then my SO and I decided it was time to start trying for kids.

I am now pregnant with twins. It happened the first month we tried.

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Quix December 15, 2009 at 7:38 pm

I'm really and truly in need of dealing with this soon. We have been using condoms + spermicide as our birth control for years and years and I've been begged to try something different. I am terrified of anything hormonal as I've had a friend that had a stroke at age 20. A non-hormonal IUD sounds like the most reasonable option for me, but my primary care physician that most doctors around here won't give you one if you haven't had children.

I was never terribly focused on my weight or my health while on birth control in high school and college, so I really have no anecdotal evidence, but if I remember correctly it did take me a week or 2 of feeling nutty to adjust to the hormone shift.

I also just HATE the idea of medication when I'm not sick. So I have to risk strokes, blood clots, weight gain, moodiness, etc just to not have kids? On/off switch please. Sigh…

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Jody - Fit at 52 December 15, 2009 at 8:01 pm

Loved the funny at the beginning AND your additions!

I have not been on birth control for years. My hubby was a kind one & got himself fixed right after we were married. I am lucky, aren't I! I some know hubbys will not do this no matter what.

BUT, way back then, birth control DID put pounds on me & I have friends that say it does now too!

As for what your sis told you, I do understand that comment BUT 10 pounds is a lot & we women suffer this crap coming & going & then you hit my age & it just gets worse with more craziness!

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Julie and Derek December 15, 2009 at 9:07 pm

I am a complete wacko with BC and too high of levels of estrogen. I have to have the lowest they can find for me and even then I still have my moments of craziness! Just ask my husband! During the time when we tried to get pregnant was probably the most blissful for me! I was normal and regulated and happy, oh and skinny. Right now I deal with the extra 10lbs, to prevent babies, but after we are done its going to be THE MAN who has to make the sacrifice! Us women do enough, I don't think its too much to ask. Although, I have friends who have had vasectomy's and they claim it makes them more horny! So its what we make of it. Also Charlotte, as an FYI, breast cancer runs in my family and its not a good idea to get a hysterectomy. With having to take hormone supplements and such actually could enhance your risks of cancer, and its just not good for the womens body. After 5 pregnancies I think its time for your hubby to take a stand and suffer a little pinch!

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H. December 15, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I take Seasonique, and have never gained weight, grated I can't lose weight either since starting it (but since I am 5'7" and 125 pounds, that's not too much of a problem, I just notice where as before I could lose weight pretty easy, I can't lose weight to save my life now). I LOVE my BC and though I am not sexually active I love not having periods and since the only ways to lose it other wise are unhealthy or involve pregnacy, I'll take this. I've thought of going off it so I could lose some weight, but 1) I iknow I don't need too and 2) I don't want my period back. ever.
I belive certine type will cause some weight gain, but not all, and sometimes some women use it as an exuse for gaining as they get older.

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linteater December 15, 2009 at 10:07 pm

Ugh…I hate birth control!

Regular pills made my breasts increase a cup and constantly hurt, accompanied with the psycho moodiness and loss of hair/libido, so I switched to OTC-lo.

My hair stopped falling out but I still had no libido and was still crazy.

So I figured since abstinence was the way I was going, I might as well not use the pills that made me crazy.

We've been using condoms since, and while they're less effective, I'm at a point in my life where a baby would probably fit in okay, so I'm willing to take the risk.

Cant' wait until they come out with that man-pill they've been talking about for the last 5 years…

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Niki December 16, 2009 at 1:40 am

How sad is it that the first thing I fixated on was that you are already down to your last 10lbs! I'm still at the last 8-10lbs and S is 6months now. I am actually doing it right this time though and working out to gain muscle. I tend to panic when the weight doesn't come off fast enough and stop working out and diet just to see the numbers go down. Which of course only makes me skinny fat. Of course, this is my 4th and it's not coming off nearly as fast as the first and I start to beat myself up about that too. Oh and back tot he point of your post ;) I don't do hormonal bc either. i figure I work so hard to feed my family whole natural foods, it doesn't make much sense for me to pump my body full of synthetic hormones. Especially cause you can bet no man would even think of messing with their hormones. We rely completely on withdrawl and it works for us, no oops babies yet ;) We are pretty sure we're done also, but no enough for something permanent just yet.

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Lauren December 16, 2009 at 2:08 am

As my mother loved telling all of my high school boyfriends – when I was three, the youngest (and only) girl in a family of boys, I thought that a penis was something the boys had only because I didn't get mine yet – so of course three year old me asked Santa Claus at the mall for a penis for Christmas. Ah, the innocence of youth!

I've been on BC pills for about 5 years now and for four of those years I did see a steady weight gain of about 20 pounds – but a lot of that I do admit has to do with college lifestyle (too much beer and pizza and sitting on my butt!) and mega mega stress. Still on the same pills (orth tri cyclen lo in the interest of full disclosure) I've dropped 13 of those pounds in the past 5 months via diet (as in cutting back the pizza and beer and onion rings and…) and exercise. Still on the pills, no change there. But I always feel like the exception there – despite the scientific evidence that says I'm the majority, none of my friends have been able to lose the 10 or so pounds they put on immediately after starting BC.

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Laurel December 16, 2009 at 2:15 am

I did the bc thing… saw close to 10 pounds too. Saw it come off when I came off the pill. You cannot convince me otherwise.
After my 3rd child I couldn't take it anyway, everything I tried made me nauseous.

My doc tried to convince me that you only "gain weight" on the pill if you "eat more". Whatever. Not for me…

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Laurel December 16, 2009 at 2:15 am

I did the bc thing… saw close to 10 pounds too. Saw it come off when I came off the pill. You cannot convince me otherwise.
After my 3rd child I couldn't take it anyway, everything I tried made me nauseous.

My doc tried to convince me that you only "gain weight" on the pill if you "eat more". Whatever. Not for me…

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:23 am

Charise – I had a similar experience when I was on the pill with the "pregnancy like" sugar/carb cravings! And this:"Now that's a cruel joke – for women who want to have safe sex, lets give them something that makes them fat, grumpy, and completely not interested in anything but chocolate sprinkles." SO TRUE!! Loved your balls story;)

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:24 am

Anonymous (2) – *plugging my ears with my fingers* lalalalallalaa I can't hear you! Kidding – I'm already dreading menopause and the great hormone debate… sigh.

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:24 am

Halima – I think you summed it up very well with this: "i don't think i gained per se but the pill did make me more susceptible to gain and harder to lose."

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:25 am

Jessica – What a terrifying experience ! I'm so glad you survived! Thanks for telling me about that side effect – I ahd no idea!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:26 am

Erika – Oh I feel your pain girl! All my pants ride up my butt these days too…

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:27 am

marathonmaiden – Yes, I do think lifestyle factors play a big part in weight gain as well. It's hard to tease apart all the different factors.

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:27 am

Mary K – I have heard good things about the ring!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:27 am

Jo – I have never heard of the cervical cap!! I will ask my doc about it. Thanks!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:28 am

Michelle – good point about the Essure. I'm glad you found what works best for you guys!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 3:30 am

Shelly – thanks for the caution about the low dose pill. I'm find that pretty much everything has side effects. It seems to be a case of the lesser of the evils…

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:39 am

Katie P – They def. seem to affect every woman differently. Plus it has occurred to me that women who love their birth control and have no complaints probably don't write about it on the Internet as those in the opposite camp;)

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:40 am

Fit Mama – Good luck to you, girl! Let me know what you decide and how it works out.

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:40 am

Anonymous (3) – Good luck starting your new family! So exciting!!!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:41 am

Fiteater – I'd say your theory sounds reasonable to me!!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:42 am

Anonymous (4) – Okay, you are the first person I've heard of who actually started lactating because of the pill! I'm so sorry!! But I'm glad you have finally figured out what your body needs. Yeesh!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:43 am

Julie and Derek – Thanks for the caution about cancer. That is def. a concern for me with my family history! I'm not planning on a hysterectomy…

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:43 am

H – Not having any periods way my fave thing about the Mirena too! Love not having that lady time:)

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:44 am

linteater – I KNOW!! Bring on the man pill!!!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:45 am

Nikki – No, not sad at all. I would have done the same thing. Comparisons are odious – not that that stops me either. Remember, we're in this together, girl!

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Charlotte December 16, 2009 at 4:46 am

Lauren – your asking Santa for a penis story is about the funniest thing I've heard all night! That's what makes having kids worth it;)

And congrats on the weight loss!!

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Weight loss Secrets December 16, 2009 at 10:58 am

Some teens gain weight and some teens lose weight while on the Pill, but most stay exactly the same. There are no calories in the Pill. Try to remember to watch your portion sizes, avoid fast food, and eat 5–7 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Drink lots of water and don’t forget to exercise!

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Anonymous December 16, 2009 at 5:27 pm

First of all, I have a HUGE problem with Yaz being marketed to help PMDD. Mostly because, the two and a half months I was on it, I was so depressed that many days, if I got out of bed at all, I ended up laying curled up on the floor crying. Didn't have that problem before I went on it – and didn't have that problem within days of stopping it. I have never in my life been as depressed as I was on Yaz, so I am extremely skeptical that it actually helps PMS.

That said, I stopped taking birth control a few years ago. Scientists SAY that it doesn't affect your chances of hormonal cancers, but I'm skeptical (it seems to me like a similar situation to what they say about weight – you're messing with your hormones, how can it not?). With a VERY high family history of breast cancer, I decided the risk wasn't worth it.

What I've discovered is that my weight (and my appetite) fluctuate depending on where my cycle is, much much much more than when I was on the pill. I gain about 5-8 pounds right before and in the first part of my period, though I swear it looks like more from being bloated. When I was on the pill, there was a minimal weight gain in the same time (1-2 pounds and less noticeable bloating). I did lose a little weight when I stopped taking the pills – about 5 pounds or so. Basically, I gain a little right before my period starts now – and on the pill, I stayed about that weight all the time. (I noticed the same thing with my boobs – they go up close to a cup size now right before I start, whereas on the pill they were close to a cup size bigger all the time than they are normally now.)

It honestly wasn't much – definitely in the range of what you notice but no one around you does. The way my body gets now when I pms/have just started is how my body was all the time on the pill, so not a huge change. There are a LOT of things about messing with hormones that worry me a lot more than the 5 or so pound weight gain.
Of course, birth control now is condoms (or sometimes pulling out… yeah, I know that's like the most ineffective way, so we'll skip the lecture). There's really not a good solution (other than maybe getting your tubes tied? I wouldn't miss the monthly cramps).

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workout mommy December 17, 2009 at 2:36 am

much to my husband's dismay, I avoid him like the plague! :)

I know…I'm not helpful.
I'm just cranky!

love the picture and reading all the other comments!

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Anonymous December 21, 2009 at 9:39 pm

After 4 c-sections and one miscarriage, I think I breathed a tiny sigh of relief when my doctor said "you're done." BC is a big pain in the butt, and I was grateful that my husband went willingly for a vasectomy. Being of the same religious belief as you Charlotte, I can really relate to your dilema. Do what you know is best for you, girl…

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Cynthia December 23, 2009 at 4:39 am

This bears repeating: The birth control pill, Yaz, has been linked to a number of adverse reactions, including strokes and lawsuits are growing over these issues. Here is some good information: http://www.yaz-may-cause-strokes.com/

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weight loss hypnosis December 25, 2009 at 4:35 am

I have read in another study for the most part, older studies using higher dose pills tend to show an average of about 5 lb weight gain using pills. One study looked at adolescents who were using DeproProvera® (DMPA) for contraception and compared them to other teens using birth control pills (1). They found that after one year of contraception, the average weight gain was 6.6 lbs (3.0 kg) in the adolescents using shots (DMPA) and 5.3 lbs (2.4 kg) when using oral contraceptives.

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Rebecca January 4, 2010 at 11:46 am

Oooooh, the birth control.

I first went on Yaz (NOT Yasmin) about a year ago to control my incredible, horrific, suicidally depressive mood swings, and Sweeney Todd-level of period horror. Got breast lumps, *worse* depression, and awful nausea for the first three months, and then settled into a good routine.

But I started noticing that I had *no* desire for anything frisky or sexual; even kissing made me feel tired! I also couldn't drop any weight–didn't gain, but also didn't lose an ounce, in spite of eating less than 900 calories (of healthy! food!) per day, and a weekly schedule of running, yoga, bellydancing, and competitive salsa.

I switched to Microgestin in August, and it was fantastic until November (sex drive came back, lost about five pounds), when I started having breakthrough bleeding. GAHHHHH!!!!!

I guess it's time to switch to something else, 'coz this girl has nooo desire to go back to being an un-medicated crazy bitch for two weeks out of each month.

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Serenity January 8, 2010 at 1:30 am

Charlotte, have you considered using ParaGard, the non-hormonal IUD. I'm on Nordette-28, and it hasn't made me gain any weight. In fact, I think I lost 2 lbs when I first got on it. But I'm thinking about switching to Paragard because I'm sick of taking the pill.

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Charlotte January 8, 2010 at 2:04 am

Serenity – I have used Paraguard in the past and loved it. However I have really heavy periods so it's not an option for me anymore. Makes me bleed like crazy! Other than that tho I adored it:)

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Anonymous July 7, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I know I'm a bit of a late post, but I had to chime in. Julie–another possibility is that birth control is suggested to affect your VO2 Max, or the amount of oxygen you can get to your muscles. By decreasing the amount of oxygen available, your muscles can't work as efficiently or well, causing many runners to lose some of their performance.

Personally, I've been on Yaz for about three years now and it was the best thing I ever did. The hormonal swings were unbelievable before–I feel like a nice, normal, sane person now! I may have gained weight and am having extreme difficulty getting it off–it's like my normal weight has "reset" to a higher number so I tend to drift towards 165-170 now instead of the 145-150 I was before–but I don't dare go off it. It's so nice to be able to function!

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