Support the IEET




The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.



Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:


Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view




whats new at ieet

Singularity 1 on 1: Quantum Thief Trilogy

Stanford Laptop Orchestra (1hr 30min)

The Nature of Categories and Concepts (1hr 30min)

Enhancing Virtues: Caring (part 2)

On Steven Pinker’s “The Better Angels of our Nature”

Cyberwarfare ethics, or how Facebook could accidentally make its engineers into targets


ieet books

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies
Author
by Nick Bostrom


comments

Rick Searle on 'How our police became Storm-troopers' (Aug 31, 2014)

instamatic on 'How our police became Storm-troopers' (Aug 31, 2014)

Rick Searle on 'How our police became Storm-troopers' (Aug 31, 2014)

instamatic on 'How our police became Storm-troopers' (Aug 31, 2014)

Rick Searle on 'How our police became Storm-troopers' (Aug 31, 2014)

instamatic on 'How our police became Storm-troopers' (Aug 31, 2014)

Rick Searle on 'How our police became Storm-troopers' (Aug 31, 2014)







Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List



JET

Transhumanism and Marxism: Philosophical Connections

Sex Work, Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Guarantee

Technological Unemployment but Still a Lot of Work…

Hottest Articles of the Last Month


Enhancing Virtues: Self-Control and Mindfulness
Aug 19, 2014
(7929) Hits
(0) Comments

Is using nano silver to treat Ebola misguided?
Aug 16, 2014
(6773) Hits
(0) Comments

“Lucy”: A Movie Review
Aug 18, 2014
(5830) Hits
(0) Comments

High Tech Jainism
Aug 10, 2014
(5323) Hits
(5) Comments



IEET > Life > Access > Enablement > Innovation > Implants > Health > Vision > Contributors > Valerie Tarico

Print Email permalink (1) Comments (3289) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


Which Contraceptive Is Best for Your Weight?


Valerie Tarico
Valerie Tarico
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jan 26, 2013

Our ancestors struggled to get enough calories just to stay alive. But as food supplies have become reliable and rich, people around the world face the opposite problem. Now, as we try to keep our weight in a healthy range, we look at all kinds of factors: diet, exercise, sleep, supplements, meditation, hypnosis, psychotherapy, prayer, or even surgery that might help us tip the scales a little less.

contraceptives and weight  - woman on scaleFor many women, one question that comes up is whether contraception is making weight management harder. Modern women spend almost forty years trying not to get pregnant. We have close to four hundred fertile cycles out of which we want to get pregnant maybe once or twice or four times or not at all. That’s a lot of time engaged in some kind of contraception, and consequently rumors abound. Anxiety is contagious, which makes scary stories particularly viral. As a woman trying to figure out what is best for your body, it can be challenging to sort out reality from hype or haze.

What’s real?

To figure out which contraceptive is most healthy for you, it is important to keep this in mind:  No matter what beauty ideals we may absorb from Hollywood and Glamour Magazine, normal healthy women gain weight during the fertile years with or without contraception. At age 13, many girls are menstruating and some have reached their adult height,  but the average weight is 100 pounds.  By age 20, they have filled out, and American women weigh on average 125-130 pounds. By age 55, the norm is closer to 165 before average weight then starts declining. (Even long distance runners and other highly active women tend to gain over time.)

The net-net is that any time a woman is contracepting is a time she is also likely to be gaining weight, regardless of any effects from contraception. Consequently, in all clinical trials of contraceptives some women complain of weight gain, and so virtually all contraceptives list weight gain as a possible side effect. Only after the fact, as data accumulate, are researchers able to tease apart normal gain from possible effects of contraceptive hormones.

contraceptives and weight - pregnancy-testSometimes we forget the big picture: Pregnancy and childbearing have such huge effects on our bodies that with rare but real exceptions the most significant health question related to any contraceptive is–how well does it work? Many women don’t realize how often most contraceptives fail with “human factors” built into the equation. On the Pill, 1 in 12 women gets pregnant each year; relying on condoms alone, that rate is 1 in 8. (For no contraception the annual rate is 85%; abstinence commitments may cut that 85% rate by about half.) With a long acting method like an implant or IUD, the pregnancy rate drops to 1 in 500 or less. If you are concerned about managing weight for health or lifestyle reasons, efficacy should be a primary consideration in choosing among contraceptive options.

Independent of the question of efficacy, the best research available suggests that most contraceptives have little effect on weight, with a few important exceptions. Here is the lay of the land.

IUD’s – The copper IUD is in the top category for efficacy (99%+) and at the same time is a completely non-hormonal method. This means that, despite some challenges in insertion and adjustment, it is the gold standard for women who want no artificial hormones. Its only effect on weight is through reducing unintended pregnancies. Hormonal IUDs boost contraceptive effectiveness (and also decrease menstrual symptoms) by releasing a mostly local micro-dose of a progestin, Levonorgestrel. When it comes to weight gain or loss, though, the difference appears minimal. One study showed slightly more gain in hormonal IUD than copper IUD users, but a longer study found that women with hormonal IUDs gained slightly less weight than women with no hormonal contraceptive. Other research reported modest weight loss for women on both kinds of IUD. Since the differences appear small and inconsistent, don’t assume either IUD will prevent normal weight changes.

Implants—Like IUD’s, implants are in the top category of contraceptive efficacy (99%+). Unlike an IUD, an implant releases a systemic dose of hormone, which has both advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately, information about implants and weight is lacking controlled research. In an online side-effect summary (not controlled research) five percent of women using an implant complained of weight gain, which is right around the rate found when a contraceptive has no significant effect on weight. One study monitored implant users for a year and found no change. Anecdotes include stories of both weight gain and, less often, loss. Such stories may not be good evidence, but they are a good reminder: even when the typical effect of a contraceptive is neutral it is important to listen to your own body.

Depo/Shot—Depo-Provera, also known as the Shot, (94% effective) is where things get complicated when it comes to contraceptives and weight. On average, users of Depo-Provera gained an extra pound a year when compared to IUD users. But the average doesn’t tell the whole story. Some women appear to gain a couple of pounds over many years of using Depo, which they find well worth trading for effective contraception and menstrual suppression that they have to think about only four times per year. Others women’s bodies react quite differently, with weight gain that over time is unhealthy. Teenagers who are already heavy (who, incidentally, appear most at risk to develop obesity after pregnancy), may be particularly vulnerable. Fortunately, the difference shows up pretty quickly. It now appears that any woman who gains five percent of her body weight in the first six months on the Shot is at risk for ongoing, contraception-related weight gain and should consider another method.contraceptive - weight curve

Patch, Ring, Pill –It is widely believed by women and doctors alike that the Pill and related combination contraceptives (all around 91% effective) cause weight gain. But guess what? The best controlled studies, taken together, don’t find any such effect. Women on the Pill or Patch or Ring absolutely do gain weight over time; remember those forty pounds we tend to gain between adolescence and menopause? But carefully comparing women who use combination hormonal contraceptives and women who do not suggests the spurts of weight gain some women experience while on these methods are largely caused by other factors like aging, stress, health issues, life changes, and–the holidays. The best data available to date suggest that the effect of the Pill, Patch or Ring is usually negligible and that women who respond by putting on pounds are roughly equaled by those who respond by dropping pounds.

Barrier Methods—For a barrier method like condoms or a diaphragm (82-88% effective), the primary weight question is going to be unintended pregnancy. With an annual failure rate of one in eight, a woman using a barrier method needs to be prepared for the eventuality of either an abortion or an unplanned child. Needless to say, a pregnancy, even one that is terminated, causes fluctuations in hormones. Fortunately, pregnancies can be identified earlier and earlier, and women who choose to terminate a problem pregnancy don’t go through the same level of hormonal and body changes that were characteristic a generation ago. However, a woman who feels strongly that she is not ready to have a child (or another child) is probably better off with a more effective method of contraception.

Natural Family Planning/Abstinence– Like barrier methods, the primary weight question related to NFP (76% ) or abstinence commitment (58%) is the likelihood of an unintended pregnancy—only more so. Proponents like to say that abstinence is 100% effective. So are diets. The reality is that humans are imperfect, and sex and hunger are two of our most powerful drives. NFP requires not only monthly abstinence but a level of self monitoring and communication that is not feasible for most people. Plan B or ella can reduce pregnancy risk when an abstinence commitment fails, and—just to stay on topic here–has no effect on weight. But in the end, the only hormone-free methods that are very effective are copper IUD’s and nonreversible methods like tubal ligation or vasectomy.

Contraceptives and weight - BedsiderFor a woman who wants a child, hormonal changes and weight gain related to pregnancy are a small price to pay, and indeed they are a small part of the price we gladly pay when we decide to have a baby. Surprisingly, except in women already prone to gain and retain weight, childbearing itself has little long term effect on body weight. Within a couple years after a pregnancy, most women tend to be back on a similar weight trajectory as their same age peers, with an average of an extra pound or so per child.

Women’s bodies respond differently to hormones, as we all know. Some of us have horrid periods and pregnancies. Some of us breeze through. Some of us barely gain a few pounds while incubating a baby; others gain a third or even half of our body weight. It is reasonable to assume that there are differences in how we respond to hormonal contraceptives as well, and every woman needs to listen to her own mind and body. All the same, it helps at times to remind ourselves of what is known—and to update our knowledge, since technology and research are constantly moving forward.

So, the bad news about contraception is this: mostly it isn’t the explanation for those frustrating extra pounds. You are likely to gain some weight over the next decade regardless. So am I. Throwing the Pill pack in the garbage or getting the IUD or implant pulled isn’t likely to be a magic bullet. The great news about contraception is this: mostly it isn’t the explanation for those frustrating extra pounds. We really do have good options when it comes to managing our fertility, better options than most of us thought; better options than our mothers and grandmothers could even imagine.

—-
Read more:
A Brief History of Your Period and Why You Don’t Have to Have It
Picture a Technology Revolution. In Contraception. It’s Here.

Dramatic Drop In Teen Pregnancy Really a Technology Tipping Point
Pamper, Pamper, Pamper – Plus 9  Other Tips for Falling in Love With Your IUD
The Big Lie About Plan B – What You Really Should Be Telling Your Friends


Dr. Valerie Tarico is a psychologist with a passion for personal and social evolution.  In 2005, she co-founded the Progress Alliance of Washington, a collective of future-oriented donors investing in progressive change.  She also is the founder of WisdomCommons.org, an interactive website that showcases humanity’s shared moral core via quotes, poetry, stories and essays from many traditions. Tarico’s book, Trusting Doubt:  A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light, offers personal insight into how we can apply “constructive curiosity” to our most closely guarded beliefs. 

As a social commentator, Tarico writes and speaks on issues ranging from religious fundamentalism to gender roles, to reproductive rights and technologies. A primary focus is on improving access to top tier contraceptive technologies.  To that end, she serves on the board of Advocates for Youth, a D.C. based nonprofit with wide-ranging programs related to reproductive health and justice.  Tarico co-chairs of Washington Women for Choice, serves on the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest Board of Advocates, and is a Senior Writing Fellow at Sightline Institute, a think tank focused on sustainable prosperity. Her articles appear at sites including the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Salon, AlterNet, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and at her blog, AwayPoint


Print Email permalink (1) Comments (3290) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


COMMENTS


Thank you for posting. I have two thoughts.

1. I think the central tenet of the “singularity” (that humanity and technology will merge) is based on a false separation of technology and humanity. I expect this is due to a limited definition of technology that relates primarily to mechanical and electrical computational systems. I think of technology as any artificial (constructed by us) cognitive extension. According to this definition, our relation to technology is much more complex and goes back much further, as things like fire, hunting methods and language are all examples of technologies, just very old ones. When technology is considered broadly, then we must accept that humanity and technology have always been integrated, and thus that the singularity is moot. We are now, just have we always have been, changing how we think and who we are through our artifacts. Yes, there may be some changes in the matter of degree and speed, but that is occurring in a very long and old context of guiding (misguiding?) our evolution.

2. Current cognitive and neuroscience begs us to consider whether our consciousness is “real” and not some illusion resulting from a flurry of cognitive operations happening without our will or even awareness. I think we should consider our individuality with a similar view. Just as what we think of as ourselves is a mere tip of the iceberg of what are minds are actually doing, we should consider whether our individuality is independent at all. It is highly shaped, constrained and manipulated by our culture via our social relations. I would not go so far to say that individuals do not exist, but I would say that “free-will” as classically defined does not exist. We consider our individual selves as much more simplistic than they actually are. Even our bodies are more “other” than “self” considering the genetic material of the bacteria that inhabits us.

Learning is a central aspect of our contemporary times, and can be considered the internalization of skills and ideas that can be unconsciously (skillfully) applied and form the basis of our choices and actions in the world. Our learning through institutions is an indoctrination of cultural knowledge, biases and ways of constructing the world, both through our constructive perception and our artifacts. Much of this learning gets buried under so many layers of abstraction that we have little awareness of them at all, they are simply the ground of “normality” in which we find comfort and link socially. Very few of us could survive without the artifacts constructed by our huge system of production. Hardly a single person knows how to build anything without the short-cut of the output of others’ production. Imagine building a radio where you not only have to build the radio, but build all the components, and all the components of components, doing the mining and smelting yourself, all using tools made by yourself. Even if you had all the knowledge of how to do this, it would still be extremely inefficient. Our survival is inherently social, and likely always has been. As individuals we are very little. Even when we speak of the huge contributions made by individuals (eg. Einstein), those very contributions are based on a huge history of work. When considered in relation to these histories of knowledge and artifacts we are dependent on, we individually contribute very little.

Perhaps an illusion of individuality is the very cause of our modern problems of exploitation and greed. If we don’t see ourselves in a network of dependence on others, then it is only logical to exploit others for our betterment. Perhaps we will not survive as a species if we don’t take our dependence on others, and our limited value as individuals, seriously.





YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Branding yourself electronically with Electronic Epidermal Systems

Previous entry: Peter Diamandis talks about “Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK”

HOME | ABOUT | FELLOWS | STAFF | EVENTS | SUPPORT  | CONTACT US
SECURING THE FUTURE | LONGER HEALTHIER LIFE | RIGHTS OF THE PERSON | ENVISIONING THE FUTURE
CYBORG BUDDHA PROJECT | AFRICAN FUTURES PROJECT | JOURNAL OF EVOLUTION AND TECHNOLOGY

RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
Williams 119, Trinity College, 300 Summit St., Hartford CT 06106 USA 
Email: director @ ieet.org     phone: 860-297-2376