Does Birth Control Make You Gain Weight?

Does Birth Control Make You Gain Weight Women's Health
July 19, 2022
6 minutes Read
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Did you know that the pill is the most common type of birth control in the USA?

While some drawbacks exist, birth control pills offer several key benefits, including convenience, relatively low cost, and general accessibility. Also, many find them less invasive because no procedure is needed for the contraception to work.

The overall convenience offered by the pill makes it a go-to for many. 26% of people who use contraceptives rely on the pill for pregnancy prevention (among other reasons).

While the pill offers many benefits, one commonly asked question is, “Does birth control make you gain weight?”.

Firstly, there are various types of birth control options to choose from, including IUDs, condoms, vaginal rings, and vasectomies. However, we’ll be referring to the pill when answering the question related to weight.

Before getting into birth control weight gain, let’s get a better idea of what contraception is.

What is birth control?

Types Of Birth Controls

As mentioned, there are various birth control options to consider, such as:

  • IUD.
  • Implant.
  • The shot.
  • Vaginal ring.
  • The patch.
  • Condoms.
  • Spermicide.
  • Various medical procedures (like tube tying or a vasectomy).

These preventative measures have different pros and cons, and each works in specific ways. You’ll want to speak to your doctor about each kind of birth control and weight gain.

Also, look at your lifestyle, family history, and other areas to see what method of contraception may work best for you.

Be sure to ask your physician about hormones in birth control and weight gain because this area tends to be misunderstood (which we will dive into a bit later).

What are birth control pills?

The pill contains hormones for pregnancy prevention. The pills come in a pack and should be taken consistently and daily to work effectively.

Many healthcare providers consider the pill to be safe and convenient. Furthermore, NHS explains that the pill has a 99% effective rate when taken correctly, and this oral contraception method is believed to have other benefits, like clearing up acne.

According to Planned Parenthood, there are two types of pills known as:

  1. The combination pill: They contain both estrogen and progestin.
  2. The minipill: They contain only progestin.

Often, the concern of birth control weight gain involves the hormones in the pill.

Does birth control make you gain weight?

Birth control and weight gain are complex because everyone has a unique experience with the pill. But some women find that they gain weight after starting the birth control pill.

If this is the case, birth control weight gain is often temporary due to water retention, which can push the scale a little, but it’s not actually extra fat. While water retention isn’t permanent, it can be uncomfortable. So let’s further unravel the topic of can birth control make you gain weight.

44 studies were reviewed and showed no evidence that birth control pills cause weight gain.

However, if someone feels they’re experiencing birth control weight gain, it’s usually minimal and disappears after two or three months, and we’ll discuss this in more detail below.

While the pill isn’t believed to cause long-term or substantial weight gain, if you’re experiencing extra pounds, several health factors could be the cause.

Birth control and weight gain: What’s the connection?

To answer, can birth control make you gain weight, let’s dive into the ingredients in the pill.

Years ago, the pill contained much higher levels of hormones (estrogen and progestin).

What do these hormones have to do with weight gain?

Progestins have been known to increase your appetite. In comparison, high levels of estrogen can increase water or fluid retention.

Water retention occurs when the body holds onto fluids which can cause a person to feel like they’ve gained weight. But does birth control cause weight gain because of the estrogen?

Firstly, the water retention caused by estrogen is usually very short-term. But if it persists, speak with your doctor for other potential causes.

Secondly, today’s birth control pills have much lower estrogen levels, which shouldn’t significantly impact weight with fluid retention.

Originally, birth control pills developed in the 50s contained about 150 mcg (micrograms) of estrogen mestranol. Thankfully, modern pills only have 20 to 50 mcg of estrogen.

Furthermore, study after study has investigated the question, “Does birth control cause weight gain?” Most research has shown limited proof that the pill causes an increase in weight.

If you feel like you’ve gained pounds after starting the pill, examine if you’re hungrier than usual, and consult your physician about the progestin levels. Making a change in your pill can help your appetite return to normal. Also, hunger levels should resume to their usual state after your body adjusts to the progestin.

Furthermore, any excess weight that occurs in the first couple of weeks or months after starting the birth control pill due to water retention or increased appetite is usually short-lived.

Does birth control make you gain weight (according to studies)?

As noted, most studies haven’t found a substantial link between weight gain and birth control pills.

However, one Cochrane Library review explains that, on average, study participants gained less than a few pounds after six or 12 months of taking minipills.

If you notice an uncomfortable or excess weight gain after starting hormonal birth control pills, it’s most likely for another reason.

To get some clarity, you might consider remotely conferring with a physician to learn more about any weight gain and your birth control options.

We suggest downloading our App, Ravkoo Health.

Once this app is downloaded onto your smartphone,  you can:

  • Use Ravkoo MD to book and consult with an MD from the privacy of your home.
  • Use Ravkoo RX to fulfill your prescription. This option also offers quick, free prescription delivery, should you require one!

Can birth control make you gain weight?

What’s the bottom line: 

If you’re feeling slightly puffier after starting the pill, it’s most likely due to water retention. This excess fluid should go away quite quickly, and estrogen levels in the pill aren’t considered enough to have a significant impact.

If you have an increased appetite, this might be because your body is adjusting to progestin. Again, chat with a health expert for clarity and options.

Studies and research haven’t shown a direct link to prolonged or substantial weight gain due to taking the pill. Any initial symptoms should subside.

Possible causes of weight gain:

What do you do if you’ve put on some pounds recently and feel like your health might be at risk?

First, you’ll want to learn about possible causes to see what might apply.

Also, take a moment to check in with yourself to see what you’ve been going through. Some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Am I working longer hours than usual?
  • Have I been eating out more often?
  • Am I under a lot of stress?
  • Am I feeling down?
  • What other medications am I taking?

Our bodies are complex, and our emotional and physical health impact our weight for various reasons.

Some possible causes for weight gain include:

  1. Your gym routine has shifted.

Have you started lifting weights? Weight training can boost your muscle mass. So even if you look and feel the same, the number on the scale could’ve increased due to extra muscle.

  1. Your metabolism has changed. 

While it’s completely normal, our metabolisms slow down as we age, which can feel frustrating. All of a sudden, the exercise you’ve done to feel in shape mightn’t be as effective. Also, some foods you never struggled with before might be harder for your body to burn off.

The good news is that your doctor can perform a metabolic blood work test and physical assessment.

  1. Your routine has changed.

If you’re taking extra classes, working a new job, or just started dating someone, your routine has most likely altered. Consider how you might fit some extra health into your daily life.

Some options include:

  • Walk instead of driving.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Have pre-cut veggies, fruit, and nuts on hand.
  • Use a resistance band to exercise while watching a show.
  • Drink coffee black.
  • Get plenty of water.
  1. You’re eating differently.

Have you been ordering food in more often? Have you been grabbing calorie-rich meals on the go? Gradually increasing calorie intake doesn’t always feel obvious until jeans feel tighter than usual.

Take note of your daily meals using a meal-tracking app. Remember, the goal isn’t to monitor your diet to make you overthink or feel stressed out, but it can be helpful to understand where your cals are coming from.

A little awareness can go a long way. Even small shifts in your daily diet can have a positive outcome!

  1. You’re going through something.

Our mental health affects us in big ways. Sometimes, we might not even realize that we’re feeling down or burnt out, meaning we won’t necessarily understand why we’ve put on weight.

Stress, depression, and exhaustion can cause our eating habits, energy levels, and hormone levels to change.

If you’re feeling emotionally off, reach out for support. You don’t have to go through it alone.

How to manage weight gain:

Life has a way of tossing curve balls, even at the best of times, so if you’ve put on some weight, remember, you’re human, and we all experience shifts in mass from time to time.

That said, some possible weight management tips include:

  1. Give yourself time.

If you’ve just started birth control pills, give your body time to adjust to the hormones.

Also, it sometimes works out naturally if you’ve put on weight for other reasons. For instance, if you just started a new job where you’re sitting more, give yourself time to adapt to a new routine that can better help your weight-management goals.

With a new routine in place, it takes a few weeks or even a couple of months to adapt and create a different health regimen to fit your schedule.

  1. Make small changes in your diet.

Don’t expect yourself to be perfect when it comes to food choices. But you can consider your daily food habits and see where you can make small shifts. For example:

  • If you go for happy hour, replace your beer with a soda and lime-based drink.
  • Ask for a side of veggies or salad with sandwiches.
  • Try eating one health-packed salad a day.
  • Invest some time in meal prep for the week.
  • Talk with a weight-management coach.
  1. Change birth control pills. 

Progestin can encourage your appetite, while estrogen can cause you to retain fluids. If your oral contraception has a high level of progestin or estrogen, you might be more likely to notice a difference in your weight.

Make an appointment to consult with your doctor if you’re still wondering, “Can birth control make you gain weight?”

All birth control pill brands aren’t created equal, so ask your physician to help you find a pill with suitable hormonal levels.

Similarly, ask your provider for non-hormonal options to see what might work best for you!

Other side effects of birth control:

It’s not uncommon to notice the side effects of taking birth control aside from increased appetite and water retention. Other side effects can also include:

Nausea: Feeling nauseous can occur if the hormone levels aren’t the right fit for your body or if the pill’s dose is too high.

Some ways to combat nausea include:

  • Take the pill with food.
  • Reduce the dosage after talking with a doctor.
  • Take the pill before bed.

Skin changes: Certain birth control pills have been shown to reduce acne. However, some people can experience more breakouts when they start using birth control because of how the hormones affect them.

Headaches: According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, a fluctuation in estrogen can trigger headaches. Consequently, by taking a hormonal birth control pill that has estrogen in them (like a combination pill), there is a chance you might feel a headache.

Headaches aren’t fun, so contact a healthcare provider immediately if they persist or are too strong.

Does birth control make you gain weight?

Conclusion:

Long-term and prolonged weight gain isn’t conclusively linked to birth control pills, so other reasons need to be looked into by a trusted healthcare provider.

Furthermore, if you’re experiencing an increased appetite or water retention, it’s most likely due to the hormone levels of your pill (and should even out with time). An MD should be able to ease your worries and discuss alternatives.

Finally, ask your doctor, “Does birth control cause weight gain?” It’s better to err on the side of caution when your body is concerned. Having more knowledge empowers you to make the best decisions possible related to your wellbeing!

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