Does Birth Control Make You Gain Weight? Here’s The Truth

Does birth control make you gain weight? If you’re thinking of starting it, this may be a concern. Maybe your BFF told you that since she started using birth control she’s been piling on the pounds even though she’s not eating more food. However, is there any truth to this? Here’s what you should know if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy.

  1. What do hormones in birth control do? The thing to know about birth control is that it contains progestin. This hormone is known to increase your appetite. On the other hand, high levels of the estrogen hormone in your birth control pills can cause fluid retention.
  2. This isn’t really something major to worry about. When it comes to estrogen, most birth control pills don’t contain as much estrogen as they used to. Birth control pills from the 1950s contained 150mcg of estrogen, whereas modern pills contain 20-50mcg. Fluid retention, FYI, is caused by birth control because its hormones stimulate the kidneys to hold onto more water, and this is what will make you bloated. But, this is a temporary side effect that tends to go away. And, fluid retention isn’t the same thing as weight gain – you just feel like you’re putting on weight.
  3. Birth control probably won’t cause weight gain. Various studies have explored the link between hormonal contraception and weight gain – not just the pill but also the patch – and have found limited evidence that using birth control will make you put on weight.
  4. So why did your friend put on weight? What might happen when you start taking birth control for a few weeks or months is that your body experiences that annoying water retention we mentioned earlier. While it seems to be weight gain, it’s not, and it won’t stick around for a long time. Besides, your friend might have put on weight for other reasons and it’s not even her birth control that’s the culprit.
  5. But, progestin can boost your appetite. Woah, hold on. Before you decide to pop that birth control pill, it’s worth remembering that progestin can cause you to have more of an appetite, which in turn can cause you to eat more and put on weight. So, if your birth control has a high quantity of progestin, you should chat to your doctor about it if you’re worried about consuming more food. Your doctor might be able to recommend a different type of birth control.
  6. What about other types of birth control? If you’re keen to use a different type of birth control instead of pills to sidestep those hormones, it’s good to know that birth control methods such as IUDs and the birth control implant contain the same hormones that you’ll find in pills.

More about birth control and weight gain

  1. Implants and shots can be linked to weight gain. Research has found that if these contraceptive methods only contain progestin, they will result in a small amount of weight gain.  So, again, if you’re on progestin-only birth control, you might wanna talk to your doctor if this is something that concerns you.
  2. You should note something about non-hormonal IUDs. Non-hormonal copper IUDs release copper instead of hormones so that they can prevent sperm from reaching the egg, and they haven’t been found to be linked to weight gain.
  3. What you can do to prevent weight gain. If you’re still worried about birth control making you put on weight, or if you have noticed that you’ve put on a bit of weight after starting birth control, healthy lifestyle habits will help you to keep your current weight or lose the extra pounds you’ve put on. Start taking up a new exercise to burn calories or try to add healthier foods to your diet instead of reaching for unhealthy carbs and snacks.
  4. What about muscle gain? If you’re building some muscle from exercising regularly, you might wonder if going on birth control will affect it. Well, a study found that oral contraceptive use has been linked to impaired muscle gain in young women. This was linked to higher cortisol, lower DHEA (a hormone that builds muscle), and lower IGF1 (a growth factor that builds muscle). Chat to your doctor and switch to a different birth control method if this worries you.
  5. Keep an eye on your symptoms! Once you’ve chosen the best birth control method for you to prevent you from falling pregnant, it’s good to keep an eye on any symptoms you experience. Birth control can cause a variety of symptoms – not just temporary weight gain – such as nausea, a lack of sex drive, spotting between periods, headaches, and much more. While your friend might experience some symptoms, you might not experience those but others instead. Bring anything that worries you, whether weight gain related or not, to your doctor.
  6. Be wary about switching. Don’t get so wrapped up in worries about weight gain that you don’t choose a healthy birth control option. For example, maybe your doc wants you to go on a progestin-only pill because your body doesn’t tolerate estrogen well. The benefits you can gain from that can outweigh your worries about putting on weight or experiencing fluid retention, for example, so weigh up all the pros and cons to ensure you choose the healthiest birth control.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.