- Yes, some birth control methods such as the pill may cause some women to gain weight. For more information on the subject it would be best to speak with your family doctor. For more information on the subject it would be best to speak with your family doctor.
- Oct 24, 2017 Hormonal birth control doesn’t cause permanent weight gain. That can cause you to gain a few pounds, but this typically vanishes after your period is over, says Dr. It's also normal to gain one to four pounds after starting hormonal birth control, she adds, but this is a temporary side effect that goes away after three months.
Here's the Real Deal With Birth Control and Your Weight. Period, says that many women who take the Pill swear it causes weight gain, though this is kind of a myth. “The scale may show a one- to three-pound weight gain, but studies show that this is a temporary side effect and goes away after the first three months,” she says.
Some women may discontinue their birth control medications because of concerns about weight gain, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
In this article, we evaluate the data that is available about birth control and weight gain, as well as provide tips for losing or preventing weight gain.
Do all birth control pills cause weight gain?
Researchers do not yet know if birth control pills cause weight gain.
Scientific studies draw mixed conclusions in the debate over whether birth control pills, otherwise known as oral contraceptives, cause weight gain.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the potential ways that women could gain weight include:
- muscle gain, as muscle weighs more than fat
- increase in body fat
These, however, are theoretical scenarios when someone is using hormonal contraceptives for birth control, and they remain unproven.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, some women taking combined contraceptives believe that they increase their appetite and cause them to feel hungrier. Again, this is not easy to establish, as those who do not take contraceptive pills can gain weight as they age.
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Why is it hard to prove birth control causes weight gain?
Scientists have difficulty creating large-scale studies to prove or disprove the theory that birth control pills cause weight gain.
To do this, researchers would have to take two groups of women and give some birth control pills with hormones, while giving placebos, or birth control pills without hormones, to others.
However, this would be difficult because people could not be sure they were in control of preventing pregnancies. Launching a very conclusive study is, therefore, difficult.
What do scientific reviews suggest?
The Cochrane Library, which conducts reviews of scientific research and evaluates available references, has published some information on birth control pills and weight gain.
The first systematic review evaluated the effects of progestin-only contraceptives on weight gain, concluding that the evidence of more than half the studies was 'low-quality.'
In the studies, participants gained fewer than 4.4 pounds, on average, after 6 or 12 months of starting progestin-only birth control pills.
The second Cochrane Library review looked at the effects of combined hormone birth control pills on weight gain. These pills contain progestin and estrogen. The researchers found there was insufficient evidence to conclude that these birth control pills caused weight gain.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, it is 'unlikely' that birth control pills cause significant weight gain. The organization did, however, acknowledge that individual women might respond differently to medications taken.
Ways to prevent weight gain
Regularly exercising may help to prevent weight gain.
Many of the methods of avoiding possible birth control-related weight gain are also those that prevent weight gain overall.
Examples of these methods include:
- Exercise: This consists of a person doing 30 minutes of physical activity each day, such as walking, running, aerobics, swimming, dancing, or other activities.
- Hydration: Drinking plenty of water each day helps to reduce bloating and thirst-related hunger. People may know if they are drinking enough water because they do not feel thirsty and their urine is light or pale yellow in appearance.
- Calorie restriction: Reducing calorie intake by 500 calories per day and eating between 1,200 and 1,500 calories per day for women, is one way to lose weight, according to the journal American Family Physician.
- Nutrition: Eating a healthful diet of nutritionally rich foods, such as vegetables, whole grains, and fruit encourages good weight balance. This includes avoiding foods that are not nutritious, such as those with added sugars, salt, and saturated fats.
If a woman is concerned that her birth control pills are causing her to gain weight, she should talk to her doctor.
A doctor may recommend another contraceptive type or a lower hormone dose to see if this could help a person lose weight.
Alternative methods of birth control
Other birth control methods besides the pill are available. Most, however, utilize the same hormones that are present in birth control pills.
Examples of these methods include the birth control implant, an intrauterine device (IUD), or a birth control vaginal ring. There are hormonal and nonhormonal IUDs, the trade names of which include Mirena, Sklya, Kyleena, Liletta.
The Paraguard IUD is the only long-acting, reversible nonhormonal contraceptive.
Other nonhormonal birth control methods include a condom, diaphragm, birth control sponge, or cervical cap.
None of these methods are, however, 100 percent guaranteed to prevent pregnancy, just as taking birth control pills is not.
For a full listing of birth control types and their average pregnancy rates with typical uses, people can check out the information provided by the United States government at WomensHealth.gov.
Other side effects of birth control pills
Headaches are a potential symptom of taking birth control pills.
Whenever someone starts taking birth control pills, it is important they consider the risks and benefits.
Hormonal birth control forms, for example, can increase the risks that a woman may experience blood clots and high blood pressure, according to WomensHealth.gov, although these complications are rare.
Women who smoke and are 35 years of age or older are at higher risk, however.
Other known side effects include:
- breast tenderness
- mood changes
- vaginal discharge
These side effects often subside as people become accustomed to taking the birth control pills. If side effects become too difficult to manage, however, they should see their doctor.
No conclusive scientific evidence has proven that taking birth control pills cause weight gain. Doctors also point to the fact that many people tend to gain weight as they age, which may be a reason why they perceive their birth control pills are to blame.
If, however, a woman has made no changes to her diet and exercise program, has recently begun taking birth control pills, and sees their weight increasing, she should talk to her doctor about possible reasons or potential adjustments.
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Article last reviewed by Thu 12 July 2018.
Visit our Birth Control / Contraception category page for the latest news on this subject, or sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest updates on Birth Control / Contraception.
All references are available in the References tab.
Birth control methods. (2017, April 24). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/birth-control-methods
Contraception: Do hormonal contraceptives cause weight gain? (2017, June 29). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0093796/
Erlandson, M., Ivey, L. C., & Seikel, K. (2016, September 1). Update on office-based strategies for the management of obesity. American Family Physician, 94(5), 361–368. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2016/0901/p361.html
Gallo, M. F., Legardy-Williams, J., Hylton-Kong, T., Rattray, C., Kourtis, A. P., Jamieson, D. J., & Steiner, M. J. (2016, March). Association of progestin contraceptive implant and weight gain. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 127(3), 573–576. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2016/03000/Association_of_Progestin_Contraceptive_Implant_and.21.aspx
Gallo, M. F., Lopez, L. M., Grimes, D. A., Carayon, F., Schulz, K. F., & Helmerhorst, F. M. (2014, January 29). Combination contraceptives: Effects on weight [Abstract]. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (1), CD003987. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24477630
Lopez, L. M., Ramesh, S., Chen, M., Edelman, A., Otterness, C., Trussell, J., & Helmerhorst, F. M. (2016, August 28). Progestin-only contraceptives: Effects on weight [Abstract]. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 8, CD008815. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27567593
Virji, A. (2017, December 15). Letters to the editor: Effects of contraceptives on weight gain or loss. American Family Physician, 96(12). Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2017/1215/ol1.html
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Recommended related news
It’s a very common story. A woman starts using hormonal birth control, finds herself gaining weight, and assumes the birth control is to blame. The tricky thing is that lots of research about hormonal birth control shows that, with one important exception, it’s probably not the birth control.
A note on personal experiences vs. the big picture
Before we lay out the evidence, we want to acknowledge the difference between looking at lots of women on average versus an individual woman. Research tells us about women on average, but not about specific women’s experiences. When we describe what happens for women on average, we are not dissing personal stories. (Bedsider has bigloveforpersonalstories!)
Here’s why the big picture is important: it sets our expectations. Being influenced by our expectations is a basic part of human nature. That’s why the placebo effect exists.
The big picture
Researchers have looked at whether hormonal birth control makes it more likely to get bloated or hungry. They’ve also looked at women’s weight changes over time when using specific birth control methods and compared them with women using methods with no hormones. With one exception, they’ve found no direct link between using hormonal birth control and gaining weight. Here are the details.
IUDs. There are two kinds of IUDs. One kind releases a low dose of progestin hormone (Mirena and Skyla) and the other kind has no hormones (ParaGard). Both kinds of IUDs mainly work inside the uterus, so there are minimal effects on the rest of the body. Studies show no difference in weight changes between women using hormonal IUDs and women using birth control without hormones.
The implant. The implant also releases a low dose of progestin hormone. Because the implant is relatively new, there are fewer studies about it. Early studies showed that about 5% of women using the implant got them removed due to concerns about weight gain. However, the weight changes don’t appear to be different between women using the implant and women using birth control without hormones.
The pill, the patch, and the ring. Birth control pills contain both an estrogen and progestin hormone, and are probably one of the most studied medicines on Earth. Many studies show that the pill does not cause weight gain, yet concern about weight gain is the main reason why women quit taking it. The ring and the patch are similar to the pill in terms of their ingredients and dose, so are not likely to cause weight gain, either.
That important exception
The shot. Most women don’t gain weight because of the shot, but some do. Interestingly, weight gain on the shot seems to be more common in young women who are already considered overweight. Additionally, the women prone to gaining weight because of the shot will usually notice a change within the first six months. If weight gain is absolutely not okay for you, the shot may not be the best choice.
Understanding all of the details that can affect weight—like diet, exercise, and genetics—can feel overwhelming. The tendency is for people to gain weight throughout their lives, so being a year older is more likely to cause weight gain than birth control. But like we said—this is on average and doesn’t take into account women’s personal experiences. If you think your birth control is affecting your weight in a way you don’t like, talk to your health care provider to find another effective method that works for you.
No matter what birth control you’re using, it’s important to get a daily cardiovascular workout. And no one says you have to leave the bedroom for that.
Birth Control Pills And Weight Gain
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People Gain Weight On Birth Control Patch
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