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Which birth control should I take to not gain weight?

LGBTQ+ care specialist
Medically reviewed by Justin L.
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 09/06/2023

One of the most common questions about birth control we hear at Livewell is whether or not it can cause weight gain. The short answer to this question is no. While everyone's body is different, birth control generally does not cause weight gain.

Does birth control really make you gain weight?

The idea that birth control can cause you to gain weight makes many people hesitant to start hormonal birth control. Let’s make one thing clear up-front, THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH GAINING WEIGHT. That being said, we can understand that you’d like to avoid gaining weight. So to be clear, in most cases BIRTH CONTROL DOES NOT MAKE YOU GAIN WEIGHT.

The idea that birth control causes weight gain stems from outdated beliefs about the effects of modern contraception on the body. Decades ago, most hormonal contraceptives used significantly higher levels of hormones than those found in today's birth control.

Since progestins can cause an increased appetite, and estrogen tends to increase fluid retention, higher doses of these hormones could cause users past to gain varying amounts of weight. Luckily, the formulas used in today's contraceptives require a much smaller amount of hormones, and no longer have the level of hormones necessary to cause significant weight gain. In fact, plenty of studies have examined the effects of today's hormonal contraceptives (from the pill to the patch) and found little evidence linking their use to weight gain.

The Weight Gain Exception: The Birth Control Shot

While most forms of birth control won't make you gain weight, there is one exception. The birth control shot is the only contraceptive that has consistently been shown to cause weight gain (on average, 11 pounds!). Luckily, this contraceptive method is not very common, as it also comes with other potential drawbacks, such as a decrease in bone mineral density.

The Likelihood of Gaining Weight Due to Birth Control

Unless you are taking the birth control shot, it's highly unlikely that your birth control is causing you to gain weight, regardless of your age or starting weight.

If you've noticed any weight gain after starting birth control, it's more than likely caused by outside factors that don't have anything to do with your contraceptive, or otherwise caused by water retention and isn't actually made up of fat.

Overall, the odds that your birth control will make you gain weight are extremely low, even with hormonal varieties such as the pill.

How to Minimize Your Odds of Weight Gain

While it's very unlikely that you'll gain weight due to taking birth control, there are some things you can do to further minimize your risk of experiencing this side effect.

Most of these steps are general lifestyle changes that will serve to make you a healthier person overall, but they can also be helpful for mitigating effects such as increased water retention.

Let Your Body Adjust

People who see an increase in water weight gain after starting birth control may be discouraged by the number they see on their scale, but there is no need to be. The higher number is more than likely due to water retention, not fat gain, and won't last forever.

Increased water retention due to birth control is generally minimal and will go away as your body adjusts to the hormones, usually within 2 to 3 months.

Make Time to Move

Exercising regularly is one of the best ways to minimize the effects of any weight gain, and will likely improve your health in a number of other ways. No worries if you can't make it to the gym, there are plenty of other ways to get moving, including hiking, swimming, or simply taking a walk around your neighborhood.

Fuel Your Body the Right Way

A balanced diet goes hand-in-hand with proper exercise. Make sure to load your plate with plenty of colorful vegetables, and try to add a source of protein to every meal.

Staying hydrated is also essential, and will even help to decrease the water retention that's likely contributing to any “increase” in your weight.

Switch Birth Control Methods

If you really feel like your birth control is having adverse effects on your health, the best thing you can do is look for a different method. Whether it's a new brand of birth control pill or a different type of contraceptive entirely, never hesitate to try something that may work better for you.

Common Symptoms of Birth Control

While weight gain is not a common side effect of birth control, there are some other side effects that you should look out for, including:

  • Nausea
  • Spotting between periods
  • Lighter or heavier periods
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Skin changes (including a reduction in acne)
  • Mood fluctuations
  • While these symptoms are fairly common, no two people are alike. It's possible you may experience many of these side effects or none at all. Plus, the lifestyle changes above can also minimize your chance of experiencing any unwanted symptoms.

If you're unhappy with your birth control, consider switching to another form, as each variety may affect you differently. Finding the right birth control often takes some trial and error, so don't feel discouraged if the first type you try doesn't work for you. At Livewell, you'll always be encouraged to keep trying new alternatives that may work better for you.