Can birth control make you gain weight?
As of now, doctors say no, birth control should not cause weight gain. That’s because when you look at the years and years of research that’s been done, there isn’t enough evidence to say birth control causes weight gain. However, birth control can cause bloating and water retention.
What makes this debate even more messy (and slightly unfair!) is that people may simply gain weight as they grow older, or as their situation changes.
If you happen to be one of those few women who put on pounds, talk to your doctor. They may suggest a different type of birth control pill. Why? Because all pills are not the same.
There are two types:
- Combination pills, which contain estrogen and progestin
- Progestin-only pills.
Weight gain vs. specific birth control methods
Most birth control studies agree that hormonal birth control isn’t likely to cause weight gain. But the actual evidence is different for each specific type of birth control.
Here’s what researchers have observed so far:
Myth vs. fact: The pill causes weight gain
Unlike other birth control methods, there’s been a good amount of research on birth control pills over the years. Several studies have found that, overall, women taking birth control pills (combined estrogen and progestin) don’t gain weight any faster than women using non-hormonal birth control. Women on the pill also didn’t notice any body fat changes compared to women not using hormonal birth control.
Myth vs. fact: The ring causes weight gain
Like the pill, the ring isn’t likely to cause any increases in weight gain or body fat. This 2006 study published in the scientific journal Human Reproduction looked at 983 women either taking the pill or using NuvaRing. There was no difference in weight gain or body composition between the two groups.
Myth vs. fact: The patch causes weight gain
The birth control patch is applied to the skin and delivers the two hormones progestin and estrogen to the body. Some women are afraid that the patch could make them gain weight. There have been trials done in the past where a woman’s weight was measured while on the patch. Researchers reviewed these studies and came to the conclusion that birth control patches should have no major effect on weight.
Myth vs. fact: The implant causes weight gain
This 2016 study observed no noticeable difference in weight gain between people with the implant versus people using a copper IUD. (Birth control studies often use the copper IUD as the comparison group because it doesn’t have any hormones.)
Likewise, this 2017 study compared women with the implant and women with a placebo implant (one that didn’t contain any hormones). There was no evidence of extra weight gain in the women with the implant.
But the authors note that expecting to gain weight on birth control may make you more likely to feel like you’re gaining weight.
Myth vs. Fact: The IUD causes weight gain
The evidence on hormonal IUDs is a little different from the other birth control methods we’ve talked about so far. Research has shown that this birth control isn’t likely to cause an increase in weight gain. However, one study found that women with a hormonal IUD had increased body fat compared to women using copper IUDs. Other studies have found different results, though.
Myth vs. fact: The shot causes weight gain
Multiple (but not all) birth control studies have found that women on the shot have gained more weight than women using other birth control methods. This study, published in the reproductive health journal, Contraception, in 2014, found that women using the shot gained more weight and body fat over time than those with a copper IUD.
Birth control that won’t affect weight
Aside from the copper IUD, there are other ways to prevent pregnancy that don’t use hormones and, therefore, won’t affect your weight. These include (with their failure rates):
- Male condoms: With typical use, condoms have a failure rate of 13 out of 100.
- Diaphragms and cervical caps: With typical use, diaphragms and cervical caps have a failure rate of 13 out of 100.
- Sponges: With typical use, sponges have a failure rate of 14 to 37 out of 100 (the higher number is for women who have given birth before.
- Spermicides: With typical use, condoms have a failure rate of 21 out of 100.
- Dal’Ava, N et al. Body weight and composition in users of levonorgestrel releasing intrauterine system. Contraception. Published March 23, 2012.
- Gallo, M et al. Association of Progestin Contraceptive Implant and Weight Gain. Obstetrics & Gynecology. Published March, 2016.
- Taneepanichskul S., Reinprayoon, & Jaisamrarn. Effects of DMPA on weight and blood pressure in long-term acceptors. Contraception. Published May 1999.
- Dal’Ava et al. Body weight and body vomposition of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate users. Contraception. Published August 2014.
- CDC. Birth Control Methods. Reviewed August 13, 2020.