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Does the Emergency Contraceptive Pill Lead to Weight Gain?

Unwanted pregnancy is a matter of concern for individuals as well as the society. Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) should be used to prevent unwanted pregnancy after intercourse, where a contraceptive method was not used or failed. There are various myths associated with the use of ECPs like it should be taken only in the morning, it protects against sexually transmitted diseases, and it causes weight gain. This article will clear myths associated with ECPs, especially that it causes weight gain.

What is a contraceptive pill?

A contraceptive pill is a type of hormonal contraception in the form of a pill that prevents pregnancy. There are two types of oral contraceptive pills: daily and emergency contraceptive pills. Daily contraceptive pills must be consumed daily in order to prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraceptive pills, on the other hand, are consumed after sexual intercourse. Synthetic female hormones, estrogen, andprogesterone, are the main components of contraceptive pills.

ECP can be divided into two types: LNG (levonorgestrel) and ulipristal acetate. LNG is a progestin pill, whereas ulipristal acetate is a selective progesterone receptor modulator. Sometimes the Yuzpe method is used, which involves the use of LNG in combination with estrogen. ECP delays ovulation and impedes implantation. Progestin thickens the cervical mucus, preventing the entry of the sperm in the genital tract, inhibiting fertilization.

Side effects of contraceptive pills

Side effects associated with ECP are rare and self-limited. It has never shown to cause serious disorders or death. Commonly observed side effects are breast tenderness, nausea, dizziness, headache, spotting, and menstrual cramps. ECPis safe and does not cause any teratogenic effect in females taking ECP. There is no evidence of birth defects in babies, where the mothers were on ECP.

Is weight gain a side effect of emergency contraceptive pills?

The simplest answer is no. Many females consider weight gain as a contraceptive pill side effect. Consuming ECP should not cause long-term weight gain. However, there can be a transient increase in weight while on ECP. The hormones in ECP have the following effects:

Estrogen: The prime reason for weight gain with estrogen is sodium and water retention. It also increases your hunger, thus increasing weight.

Progesterone: This hormone is seen to promote the deposition of fats in adipose and breast tissue. It also results in hyperphagia. All this ultimately causes weight gain.

Though hormones in ECP are responsible for weight gain, the dose of these hormones is very less. According to the NHS, there is little or no evidence that taking ECP results in weight gain. Despite this fact, contraceptive pills affect different individuals in different ways. There might be transient weight gain, but the effect is only for few days

There is one more common question associated with these pills. Does the type of ECP affect the chance of weight gain? The answer again is no.

If your weight gain is long-term, it is not associated with the pills, and the following precautions should be taken:

  • Pay attention to what you eat. Avoid oily and fried food. Intake of food items rich in carbohydrates should be limited.
  • Exercise daily. Even a brisk walk for 45 minutes would suffice.
  • Try yoga or meditation if you think you are stressed.
  • Eat at regular intervals of 3-4 hours. Consume at least 2 liters of water every day.
  • Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, especially the green ones.
  • If your menses are not regular, it is recommended to consult a gynecologist.

Published in Women Health

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