Recommend a contraceptive pill that won't cause me to gain weight
December 13, 2004 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Pill weight gain? I went on the Pill to get rid of severe cramps years ago. [more inside]
posted by transona5 to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
yes, you'll gain weight.
posted by dabitch at 12:32 PM on December 13, 2004

Sorry I couldn't help myself.
posted by dabitch at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2004

Response by poster: It worked, but I gained 25 pounds. The university clinic kept telling me that "Pill weight gain is a myth," but of course I lost 25 pounds as soon as I stopped taking it. Now I'm getting sick of being in pain one day a month and I'm thinking of trying it again. Are there any formulations you've found that don't make you gain weight and stop severe cramps?
posted by transona5 at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2004

I never have. I think low dose pills are better for avoiding weight gain, though.
posted by Amizu at 12:36 PM on December 13, 2004

Right, since I have that same problem I got bad news, you'll gain weight on the pill no matter what. 25 pounds is a lot though, and some brands are better than others, which will only send you up the scale with a few pounds which is easier to deal with.

The only thing I can reccomend is to ask for another type of pill and explain how much weight you gained last. Perhaps a lesser hormon bomb will still help your cramps and avoid sending you up the scale. I must have tried 15 brands by now. ;)

A favored cramp-helper amoung the endometriotis ridden girls (we know what a lot of pain means) is evening primrose oil which you can get in gel capsules at any health store. I'd give that a go first if I were you. I'd also talk to my doctor about having such extreme cramps, it isn't normal.
posted by dabitch at 12:39 PM on December 13, 2004

Some versions (like Alesse and Yasmine) are supposed to be better than others, but in my experience, they all have about the same side effects.

The Nuvaring is supposed to have less severe side effects because the hormones circulate locally, rather than throughout your whole body. So the weight gain may be less dramatic, but the pain relief might be too. Check out the patch too.

Another idea is to find something that helps you through that one day. I've found a prescription drug to help with cramps and other pain--I think it's called Clinoril, but I'm not sure. Find a good obgyn and ask her!
posted by equipoise at 12:41 PM on December 13, 2004

I've been taking Yasmin for two years and have gained no weight at all during that time. Also, I haven't had any of the side effects that I did while on Ortho Tri-Cyclen. Of course it varies from person to person, but Yasmin's been good to me. And it does help regulate your period and cramps.
posted by smich at 12:44 PM on December 13, 2004

Yasmin is no miracle drug--everyone I know who has taken it (including myself) has had problems with the depression it causes. Although all birth control pills can cause depression. Sorry--I just had to add that, because it is marketed as a "no side effects" drug. Does one of those even exist?!
I did not gain weight on it BUT when I went off of it, my hair fell out. My dermatologist said that this is normal when your hormones change so drastically--but as I'm 26 with long hair, it wasn't fun to go through.
posted by fabesfaves at 12:58 PM on December 13, 2004

Yasmin has been good for me-- fabesfaves, can you elaborate on the mood problems it causes your you and your friends? Is it full-blown depression, escalated premenstrual moodiess or what?
posted by bonheur at 1:03 PM on December 13, 2004

Yasmin's caused me larger breasts (yay!), clearer skin (yay!), and an absolute absence of sex drive (boooooooooo!). I haven't noticed any depression...or, rather, I have, but I blame law school instead of Yasmin.
posted by equipoise at 1:09 PM on December 13, 2004

Evening primrose oil has also been known to cause seizures in certain people, a phenomenon I've seen firsthand.
posted by jeffmshaw at 1:11 PM on December 13, 2004

I'm on the NuvaRing, and I don't believe it has contributed to any weight gain. It has also resolved other side effects I had on Ortho Tri-Cyclen, like decreased libido and moodiness. Never had any huge problems with cramps, though, so I can't comment on it for that.
Additionally, the pill itself I don't believe causes weight gain by actually slowing your metabolism so much as the hormones make you a little bit hungrier (and you might retain more water). Keep an eye on your eating habits when you switch pills to prevent excessive weight gain. It is amazingly easy to add a couple hundred calories a day to your diet without really noticing.
posted by ch1x0r at 1:17 PM on December 13, 2004

Don't do the patch. I can't tell whether the weight gain is any different than any other pill, but the benefits (besides the birth control apsect) are few and far between. My periods are longer and more painful than with any other pill I've tried (including Alesse and Yasmin). Libido sucks just as much as with any other method. And the patch itself is kind of a pain in the ass (literally). When you place the patch on your abdomen or butt, you'll find that it will shift just enough so that the adhesive sticks to your underwear/pants and may cause pinching or pulling. I found that placing it on my shoulderblades caused intense itching. So far the upper arms aren't too bad, but it's not attractive if you plan on baring any skin. Guess who's going back to some kind of pill (probably Alesse) ASAP...

On preview - ch1x0r - you say your libido has returned on the ring? Interesting. I may have to try that one next!
posted by MsVader at 1:31 PM on December 13, 2004

The Nuvaring has helped with my cramps. I switched to it after being on the patch for a year, as my last two periods on the patch were debilitating -- the first month, I honestly thought I'd somehow managed to have a miscarriage, such was the pain. The Nuvaring has lightened my period and shortened it. The cramps are not as bad, though they're still there.

And I gained a bunch of weight on the patch, like 40lbs (though part of that might have been the first year of marriage weight gain that happens so often.) I'm slowly but surely starting to lose on the ring, though my newfound gym habit is also helping, I'm sure.
posted by sugarfish at 1:36 PM on December 13, 2004

Thread Add-On: What about Seasonale? What side effects have you experienced? So far, I've noticed more stable moods (yay!) but have had break through bleed issues. Granted, I'm still in the first cycle of Seasonale.
posted by onhazier at 1:40 PM on December 13, 2004

I've taken various pills for short periods of time, but nothing really worked until I tried the NuvaRing. The hormones in pills would send me into a tailspin (depression and no sex drive to speak of) but the ring has been pretty good so far. It took a few months to get used to, but now my periods are WAY lighter (I used to have a full seven days of Aunt Flo. joy.) and severe cramps are now just minor aches that two ibuprofin will take care of. No depression and only spastic mood swings lasting half a day, if that. No weight gain that I've noticed and very little water retention.

It's also great not to have to remember to take something every morning.
posted by absquatulate at 1:41 PM on December 13, 2004

MsVader: I can attest to the return of libido after about 5 months on the ring as well (as compared to when I was on the Pill. Oy.)
posted by absquatulate at 1:42 PM on December 13, 2004

onhazier - After a cycle or two, the breakthrough bleeding should stop. I did gain weight when starting, though, and a few weeks back someone mentioned that she thought Seasonale was aggrivating her sciatica.
posted by Coffeemate at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2004

Side effects to the pill depend on the person. I didn't gain any weight on Otho-Cyclen or Yasmin, but my best friend put on 30 pounds on the pill, lost 10, and regained that 10 after switching to Depo. Consider that weight gain could possibly be part of the depression side effect rather than your body responding to the hormones (though the latter is more likely) and try to counter that.

If you don't need the pill for other reasons (not losing too much blood every month, not sexing it up), you could just go off it and try out your standard cramp meds. Face it: you're purposefully screwing with your body's hormones.

Incidentally, I never had cramps before going on the pill. Payback for not gaining any weight, I guess.
posted by honeydew at 1:56 PM on December 13, 2004

onhazier: i'm halfway through my second cycle of seasonale. i did have a little problem with breakthroughs during the first cycle, but this time i'm fine. the only other side effects i've noticed (as compared to the half dozen other BC pills i've been on) are that my skin is much clearer and my migraines are less frequent, though the migraine i had when i got my last period was one of the worst ever. still, i suppose one wicked three day headache every three months is better than the five or more migraines a month i suffered before i went on seasonale.

as for weight gain, i am about 15 lbs heavier on the pill than off, and i lose the weight right away when i go off. . . which i won't be doing anytime soon for various medical reasons.
posted by katie at 1:58 PM on December 13, 2004

can you elaborate on the mood problems it causes your you and your friends? Is it full-blown depression, escalated premenstrual moodiess or what?

I was on Microgynon which is the cheap pill that everyone in Britain is put on first, and my housemate guessed which I was on when she noticed that I was crying every morning before work. She said she'd known other women have the same problems. I've since given up on the pill, after trying another kind and having the same problems (constant crying, inability to cope with daily life, feelings of hopelessness, early morning waking - depression, in short). There may be one out there which is right for me, but I'm not prepared to take the chance that the next one might have the same effect.

No more hormones for me. Neither pill affected my libido, though.
posted by altolinguistic at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2004

Even if you take into account that I'm a super earthy crunchy chick, and that I believe that screwing with your natural hormones is inherently bad, you've still got to take my word for it and do a little research about alternative ways way to get your cycles regular and pain-free. There are herbal remedies and homeopathic remedies and acupuncture, but the biggest difference can be made with simple diet changes. Cut out the caffeine and dairy for a couple months and see what happens with your cramps. Get some regular exercise. And the benefit to many of the natural remedies out there is that they are side-effect free. Yay.
posted by Specklet at 2:18 PM on December 13, 2004

I started taking feverfew capsules every evening to prevent migraines, and it also has made my cramps less severe (and gotten rid of my PMS, which is odd). Most herbal stuff messes me up, but I haven't had any side effects.

It is supposed to be a smooth muscle relaxer.
posted by QIbHom at 2:24 PM on December 13, 2004

My gf has been on both Ortho-tricyclen and Ortho-tricyclen-LO. The regular one makes her boobs (and to a lesser extent, the rest of her) grow, while the other does not. However, sex-drive is reduced on the LO, so go figure.

I guess there is something to be said about larger women.. ;)
posted by eas98 at 2:30 PM on December 13, 2004

I'm on Levora (that's a generic, no idea what it stands in for). I never gained any weight- though I've changed my exercise and eating habits quite a bit in the past couple of years, so that could be why I lucked out.

While I haven't tried Seasonale, for a long time I was skipping the placebo week at the end of the month and going right into a new pill pack, and so skipping my period. After doing this for about a year and a half, I noticed that I turned into a raging bitch after skipping for a month or two. Now I take 'em as instructed, and have very few mood problems (ok, there is at least one day a month when the waterworks come on), and no other side effects.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 2:35 PM on December 13, 2004

Does anyone know of a place where one can learn about the various kinds of pills that are out there, and what their side effects and similarities and differences are? There are lots of drugs mentioned here and I'm just wondering how one learns what the options are. Health clinics and doctors don't always present half a dozen choices.
posted by scarabic at 2:48 PM on December 13, 2004

Cut out the caffeine and dairy for a couple months and see what happens with your cramps.

I'm all for people trying natural remedies as Specklet suggests, but I'd just add that my wife consumes neither caffeine nor dairy in any significant quantities, and has considerable discomfort each month, on the pill or off.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:54 PM on December 13, 2004

Hey WonderChicken, has your lady tried acupuncture, or perhaps consulting a naturopathic doctor? Sometimes it takes more of a jump start than the omission of dairy etc. to get the body functioning well. It takes some doing to find the balance of factors for each individual. Personally, stress always bites me in the ass, come about day 25 in my cycle. Also, alcohol is not good for my PMS and other discomforts...
posted by Specklet at 5:04 PM on December 13, 2004

I've only been on Alesse and I haven't gained any weight, though I did have like, every other side effect that my doctor mentioned as a possibility in the first three months even though it is a really low dose, so I kind of assumed the weight gain thing was a myth.

Scarabic: I think the best thing is to ask the doctor or health clinic what options there are.
posted by SoftRain at 5:05 PM on December 13, 2004

Specklet: I'm not trying to pick on you but I would chime in concering your comment about screwing with natural hormones is inherently bad: Er, well, only IF your natural hormones are always as they *should* be in theory. I have a family history of them NOT being "normal", so in actuality being on birth control brings my hormones closer to "normal" than my body can do on its own.

All I'm saying is that the reasons for going on birth control aren't always the obvious ones.
posted by absquatulate at 5:12 PM on December 13, 2004

I was the one that posted about seasonale & sciatica, and I wanted to provide a followup. In the end, I think there was a relationship between the pill and the back pain, but not a direct one. After two weeks on the pill I noticed three things: One: I gained 10 lbs. Two: The sciatica was back. Three: My mood was much darker, and my impulsivity problem was WAY up.

But I didn't stop the pills. I had this theory that the bc was having a negative effect on my depression meds, so I called my psch. dr. and asked him to confirm. Long story short, we decided to up my dosage on the paxil, and shortly afterwards, everything came back into balance.
posted by lilboo at 6:35 PM on December 13, 2004

One thing my obgyn reccommended for pill-related moodiness was vitamin B supplements. I started taking them about the same time that I switched to the ring. I do think I feel generally better, but I have no idea if it's the vitamin B or the ring or both.
I personally give a huge thumbs-up to the ring. I have been extremely pleased with it compared to the pill, so if you're considering trying a different method, I would try that before giving up on the hormonal methods completely.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:36 PM on December 13, 2004

can you elaborate on the mood problems it causes your you and your friends? Is it full-blown depression, escalated premenstrual moodiess or what?

Personally, I became extremely moody from both Yasmin and Ortho Tricyclen. I didn't stay on Ortho for more than one month (two different times), and with the Yasmin I took it for about 6 or 7 months. I couldn't handle it. It made me moody, and I'm not a stranger to depression to begin with, but I took it during a point in my life where I was feeling just fine. And suddenly, it was weird--I just felt like I couldn't feel happy about things that I normally would. I cried a lot, and started lots of stupid fights with my boyfriend. And it was real obvious that it was the pill. The reason I stopped taking it, though, besides the depression, was that it completely eliminated my sex drive. And I was taking it for contraceptive purposes so this made no sense. Honestly, there is a lot of proof that birth control pills can lead to depression. When I started suspecting it to be the problem, I did quite a bit of research (I'm a librarian so I have access to a lot of info all day at work) and found much to support my belief that it was the pill causing my problems. I also found TONS of posts on the forums at from other people with these experiences. I feel much better off of it, but condoms are a pain in the ass.

oh one more thing--Yasmin made my breasts hurt CONSTANTLY, and very badly. it was awful.

A friend of mine who took Yasmin had a similar experience with the mood swings and depression. She said she just didnt feel like herself. She only took it for a month as well.

My best friend just stopped taking Ortho Tricyclen (and then the "lo" version) for 7 years. She didn't really have problems on it, that she was aware of, but she did want to finally try to see how she felt off of it. She began taking it at 19 to clear up her acne, which it did. Another friend of mine took something, I can't remember which pill, and it made her gain weight and elminated her sex drive completely. She's now on something else that agrees with her. I don't know what, though. It's also worth noting that I have yet another friend who has taken all sorts of different pills over the past 10 years and hasn't had any problems at all.

To the person who asked about the different pills--birth control pills are like anything else--you have to just see how you react to them. I have had three doctors tell me that, and I believe it--Some people have good luck on a pill that others don't... I made the comment about Yasmin not being a miracle drug because it annoys me that it is marketed as such. Oh and the reason it doesn't cause as much weight gain is because its chemical makeup is similar to a dieuretic (sp?)
posted by fabesfaves at 9:25 PM on December 13, 2004

Definitely don't get the injection: Depo-Provera is well-known for its weight gain. I wish I'd known that before going on a 3-month session that made me put on 15 kilos that I've never been able to get rid of, even 4 years later.

(Sidenote: Transona, did your weight just come off naturally?)

I went on Diane about 5 months ago, and haven't had any weight gain. I went on it for my acne, which has almost cleared up save for a few stubbon ones. So far, minimal mood swings, minimal cramps. The sex drive is still there, but that's what happens with a new boyfriend.
posted by chronic sublime at 10:07 PM on December 13, 2004

Absquatulate, I didn't mean that you shouldn't correct imbalances in your system (indeed, that's what medicine in any form is supposed to do), I only meant that there are side-effect free and more "natural" ways to do it than artificial hormones. The so-called alternative methods usually take more persistence and fine-tuning than the western approach, but imho, it's worth it...
posted by Specklet at 11:02 AM on December 14, 2004

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