Health / 05.07.2017

7 things you didn’t know about being on the pill

By Francesca Specter
Including whether it will affect your weight

The contraceptive pill has been around for many years now, and while it undoubtedly has many great benefits, we often just pop it without question, not really knowing the impact (both good and bad) the pill can have on the body.

When deciding to go on the pill there are many things to take into consideration but, despite the wealth of information available now, people are still a little in the dark about what actually happens to your body when you are on the pill.

To help separate the fact from fiction and give you a little more insight, research scientists at Clue ( want to share some lesser-known facts about this form of contraception.

1 You don’t ovulate when you’re on the pill

One of the ways that contraceptive pills work is by preventing ovulation. If you miss a pill or two, ovulation may still occur, but the pill also works in other ways to prevent pregnancy, such as stopping the uterine lining from thickening making it difficult for a fertilised egg to implant there.

2 Your period is not a ‘real’ period

If you take your pill correctly, your period is not a ‘real’ period, but rather withdrawal bleeding. It’s an artificial period, which is why it tends to be much lighter than a regular period. Ovulation needs to occur to produce the endogenous hormones that cause menstruation. As the pill stops ovulation, we don’t produce these hormones and therefore don’t have a ‘real’ period.

3 Oestrogen and Progesterone levels stabilise

Your levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone are stabilised when you are taking the pill. Off the pill, these fluctuate. The hormones that play a part in the menstrual cycle can also affect your body in other ways, which is why the pill is now often prescribed for other conditions affected by hormone levels, such as acne and mood swings, and not just as a contraceptive.

4 Every pill is different

Each pill contains different hormones. Monophasic combined pills, such as Microgynon (which is one of the most commonly prescribed as it has been tested so thoroughly), contains the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel, whereas other monophasic pills, like Yasmin, contains drospirenone. These hormones can interact differently with each individual, creating different side-effects, which is why one pill can be great for some but not for others. It is important to visit your GP to find the right pill for you, and to not base your choice around the experiences others have had.

5 It’s unlikely it will cause you to gain weight

This is a commonly believed myth about the contraceptive pill, but there is no evidence that the pill causes you to gain weight. This is likely believed because the first contraceptive pill that was available, in the 1960s, had higher levels of oestrogen, which in large doses can lead to weight gain in women as it increases the appetite and causes water retention. The pills we have available today contain far fewer hormones, and any perceived weight gain is usually due to water retention, which largely subsides after a few months.

6 You can get pregnant as soon as you come off the pill

There is a myth that you can’t get pregnant immediately after coming off the pill. If you have been on the pill for an extended period of time, it might take some time for your hormones and fertility to get back on track, but that is not always the case. If you are fertile, you will be able to conceive as soon as you stop taking it. That said, doctors recommend waiting until you have had your first proper period (rather than a withdrawal bleed) before you try to get pregnant, to allow them to accurately calculate your due date should you conceive.

7 The pill can affect your sense of smell

Studies have shown that women are more sensitive to smell when they are ovulating. Also, the hormones oestrogen and progesterone can affect how receptive you are to smell and, as these fluctuate, so may your sensitivity to odours. As the pill prevents ovulation and stabilises these hormones, taking it can lessen your sensitivity to smell.