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Cory Silverberg

Birth Control Pills Causing Weight Gain May Be Misconception

By January 25, 2006

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A study coming out of the nonprofit organization Family Health International, has found that contrary to the common belief, use of oral contraceptives are not associated with weight gain. The study, which analyzed data from 44 other studies, found "no evidence to support a causal association between combination contraceptives and weight gain."

“The myth that the pill causes weight gain is deeply entrenched,” said Carolyn Westhoff, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, “and the most weight-obsessed segment of the female population just won’t take hormonal contraception at all because they think they’re going to gain weight.”

According to Westhoff, myths about hormonal contraceptive-related weight gain are shared by many physicians and health educators. “Overwhelmingly, doctors have the same incorrect myths as the general population,” she said, “and sometimes the counseling that patients receive by health educators incorporates and deepens these myths.”

Combination oral contraceptives have been available since 1960 and are the most popular form of reversible birth control in the U.S. Approximately 11.6 million American women use oral contraceptives, including 40 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 24. If used correctly and consistently, they are over 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. With typical use, their effectiveness is estimated to be about 92 percent.

The review discloses that one of the authors, has consulted with or served on a speakers’ bureau for pharmaceutical companies that manufacture hormonal contraceptives and another, has supervised studies sponsored by or assigned by pharmaceutical companies that manufacture oral contraceptives.

More Contraception News

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