PCOS? Birth control will help you lose weight (NOT!)

S A writes:
After some very terrifying abdominal pain when I was 15 (5’5″ and weighing about 150lbs), I went to the doctor. Both my pediatrician and an adolescent endocrinologist told me I had PCOS, explained that it was the reason I was “so overweight,” and lied to me and pressured me to start taking birth control. When I finally agreed to take it, they were thrilled and made it sound as if I was going to lose weight when I took the pill.

Over the next eight years, I gained about 40lbs. Whenever I’d see my new primary care doctor, she would warn me about my weight, and how I probably was pre-diabetic. Once, she ordered a bunch of blood tests for me without telling me that I needed to fast; I got an almost EXCITED phone call a week later saying I was definitely pre-diabetic. After she explained I needed to eat better and exercise more, and that I would need to start a new medication to treat it, I told her that I hadn’t been fasting when the blood was taken. Sure enough, when we redid the test, I was fine.

In the meantime, every time I asked about my birth control having an effect on my weight, I got the same answer: it doesn’t do anything to your weight. In the meantime, I was reminded constantly to eat right and exercise, even though I made an effort to avoid eating junk food, I walked 3 miles to and from work every day, and my bloodwork always came back showing I was spectacularly healthy. But every single appointment I had, I’d get lectured on how I was obese and I needed to take care of myself.

I tried to start running (thinking that it would make these doctors shut up), and I started having excruciating calf pain. After ruling out “running improperly,” we discovered I had an unusual orthopedic condition that would require surgery. To reduce the risk of blood clots from surgery, I stopped taking the pill. Two weeks later, I had my annual physical; I had lost 15lbs and had dropped from “obese” BMI to “overweight.” My doctor congratulated me on successful weight loss, but when I told her, “Actually, I lost all this weight in two weeks because I went off the pill,” she replied, “Oh, yeah, that’ll do it.” OH REALLY.

After being shamed for years by doctors who kept insisting that I was unhealthy, and who kept denying that the medication I was on had caused weight gain, I have since avoided going to see doctors unless I have to.

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  1. I am really angry on your behalf. I also have PCOS, and while I took birth control, it was to deal with the hair loss on my head. Nobody said anything about how it would affect my weight, one way or the other. My doctor made it clear that I was going on pills that were high in progesterone, since PCOS causes higher levels of estrogen. I don’t know what the hormone mix was with your pills, but if you need to use them again for some reason, remember there are a lot of options.

    Good luck with everything!

  2. Sounds like familiar story. I too was diagnosed with PCOS at a young age, 13. I was put on BC to help with excessive hair growth in undesirable places. I gained quite a bit of weight and after only a couple of years opted to stop taking it. Lost the weight. Went on the depo shot when I was 18. All the ugly symptoms of PCOS went away but I gained about 50 pounds and was sent into a spiral of depression and anxiety. I am now 25 and got the Mirena IUD two years ago. I was promised by my doctor that I would not gain weight or have depression. Well guess who gained a tremendous amount of weight and is severely depressed. On top of that the PCOS is no better which was at least the bright side of the other BCs.

    When I asked the doctor to help me out with the depression her only advice was to exercise. It just saddens me that the doctors who we trust to have our best interest lie and provide empty promises. I paid $1000 out of pocket for the Mirena. $1000 spent to make me feel miserable and depressed.

    In short I feel your pain.


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