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Does Birth Control Make You Gain Weight? Things to Know About Hormonal Contraception

The truth is that birth control affects everyone differently. Studies show that certain types of birth control can cause some weight gain, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally. It’s important to choose a method that fits your needs and makes you feel comfortable.

Concern about weight gain as a side effect of hormonal contraception is one reason people don’t want to use it as birth control. According to the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth report, 63 percent of women who have either never used hormonal birth control or have stopped using it said weight gain was the reason why.

However, data from a U.S. study in 2014 conducted with the participation of 150 women using hormonal contraceptives for three or more months showed that there is no association between hormonal birth control and weight gain.

Let’s further explore whether birth control makes you gain weight and what can be done about it.

Some people experience a small amount of weight gain when they first start taking birth control pills — but in most cases, this is a side effect due to mild fluid retention rather than an increase in body fat. Also, there’s evidence that suggests that combined contraceptives (which contain both estrogen and progesterone) can increase appetite, which could eventually lead to some weight gain. 

There are few types of contraception that are more likely to cause some weight gain.

Contraceptive injection — Studies show that some people experience weight gain while using the contraceptive injection, especially when the injection is used for longer than two years. The average weight gain is around five pounds (or 2.2 kilograms). Following up after five years, the average weight gain is 9.5 pounds (4.3 kilograms) with the progestin-only injection.

Implant — The contraceptive implant has also been associated with some weight gain. However, these weight changes are variable, and lots of people either don’t gain weight or lose weight while they’re using the implant.

Progestin-only contraceptives — In 22 studies of over 11,000 women, weight gain was found to be around 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) over 6–12 months of use. Three of the studies showed greater weight gain when using an injectable form of contraceptive.  

Keep in mind that it’s also possible to gain weight due to lifestyle factors that aren’t related to your birth control, and many people naturally experience some weight gain as they age. In these cases, it can be easy to mistakenly associate contraceptives with the changes in your weight, even if they’re not the actual cause.

There are some types of birth control that won’t make you gain weight, so if this is a concern for you, you might want to try one of these:

Combined contraceptive patches — According to a trial in 2001, the use of combined contraceptive patches does not increase the risk of weight gain. Further studies have shown a weight gain of no more than 0.6 pounds (0.3 kilograms) for at least 13 cycles.

Combined oral contraceptives (COCs) — Some COCs are made with a specific form of progestin that doesn’t cause fluid retention.

Vaginal ring — A small weight gain of 0.8 pounds (0.37 kilogram) during the first year of contraceptive use was shown in a study conducted in 2006.

IUDs with progestin — According to a study in Brazil in 2006, there was no difference in weight gain for hormonal and non-hormonal IUD users.

There are many different strategies that you can use to lose weight, whether you’re on birth control or not. These strategies are quite common and include:

  • Balanced diet
    Although there is no perfect diet that fits everyone, Eric Rimm, an expert in nutrition and epidemiology, suggests that the Mediterranean diet can be good for losing weight. This diet is full of fruits, veggies, healthy vegetable oils, fish, and whole grains. 
  • Regular exercise
    Physical activity helps us stay healthy and energized, and it can also help us to burn calories and lose weight. It’s best to choose the type of exercise or sports that you enjoy and that suits you best. The point is to make it a regular part of your routine, which is easier to do if you actually enjoy it.
  • Enough sleep and rest
    Not getting enough sleep can lead to hormonal disturbances, so it can also affect your weight. Make sure you get enough rest — most adults need 7–9 hours of sleep every day.

If you suspect that your birth control is causing issues like fluid retention or an increase in appetite after taking it for a few months, you might want to consider talking to your health care provider about changing contraceptives.

The same contraceptive method can work very differently for different people. And while some people find that birth control makes them gain weight, not everyone will have the same experience, even if they’re taking the same type of birth control.

There are many methods of hormonal contraception. Some have a higher risk of weight gain than others. If you’re worried about gaining weight while taking hormonal contraceptives, discuss this issue in advance with your health care provider. Together, you can find the most comfortable method for you.

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“Gynecologic Considerations for Adolescents and Young Women with Cardiac Conditions.” ACOG, Nov. 2020, www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2020/11/gynecologic-considerations-for-adolescents-and-young-women-with-cardiac-conditions.

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Beksinska, Mags et al. “Weight Change and Hormonal Contraception: Fact and Fiction.” Medscape, WebMD LLC, 2011, https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/734669_1