Does Birth Control Make You Gain Weight?

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
March 8, 2022

If you are starting a new form of birth control or thinking of switching to birth control pills from another contraceptive method, then you will want to know what to expect. 

Many people assume that starting birth control automatically leads to weight gain.

However, that is a misconception. There is no scientific evidence that directly links birth control pills to weight gain.

That said, if you suspect that your birth control is responsible for a change in your body weight, then reach out to your doctor immediately.

This article will bust some myths about weight gain and weight loss in relation to birth control.

It will also explore other contributions to a change in weight and the real side effects of birth control for which to prepare.

Causes of Weight Gain

If you experience weight gain, you may want to pay attention to the potential causes.

Studies show that it is common for adults to gain about a pound every year. 

Many factors can lead to weight gain, including:

  • Changes in routine and lifestyle: A sudden disruption in your routine can make your weight fluctuate. For instance, you might put on weight if you start sitting more, especially after living an active life. Also, note that your body is designed for movement and needs sufficient exercise to balance its weight.
  • Lack of sleep: Researchers say that insufficient sleep, irregular sleeping patterns, and insomnia can contribute to weight gain, as REM (rapid eye movement that happens while sleeping and dreaming) is required to regulate your body’s metabolism. Tired people also tend to crave sugar and unhealthy carbs throughout the day, leading to a poor diet.
  • Unhealthy diet: Eating more calories than your body can use might lead to weight gain. Additionally, consuming a diet that is high in sugar and additives and less in fibrous nutrients will contribute to added weight. Maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet while limiting overeating will aid in maintaining your weight.
  • Genetics and other underlying medical conditions: You may find that you are genetically susceptible to weight gain unless you take extra measures to control this. Some people also suffer from ailments that intensify weight gain like insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, heart conditions, and PCOS

All of these factors come into play whether you’re taking the birth control pill or not. 

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Does Birth Control Cause Weight Gain? 

There are different types of birth controls, and some people do experience weight gain when they first start birth control.

This is because their body may retain water and other fluids, and it takes time to adjust to it. 

Some combined contraceptives (which contain both estrogen and progesterone) may make you hungry more often or give you bloated sensations. This may change the way you eat, eventually affecting your weight.

It is also important to remember that as you go through your menstrual cycle, your body shape will change.

Apart from water retention and bloating, you will also notice differences in your mood, energy levels, and sex drive. These are contributing factors to changes in your lifestyle, exercise regime, and diet. 

Birth control methods like implants and contraceptive injection, and some contraceptive pill brands may cause weight gain, but this is different for each person.

Your doctor may advise you to change your birth control method or ask you to use a different brand.

Birth control has come a long way since it was first developed. Modern hormonal contraceptives do not contain such high levels of estrogen like they used to.

Today, even though it can take a few months for your body to adjust to oral contraceptives and hormonal contraceptives, it is not usually a cause for concern unless you see long-term weight gain.

Managing Weight Gain Caused by Birth Control

The good news is even if you have put on a little weight after starting birth control or notice some water retention, you can manage this and get your weight back to normal.

Here are two ways you can do this:

Exercising regularly

Physical activity and keeping yourself active helps maintain your weight.

Routine exercise is recommended even if you are not on birth control and if you’re not overweight. 

Eating a balanced and healthy diet

Consuming a diet that is diverse, balanced, and healthy is key to maintaining your weight and promoting your overall health.

If you are trying to lose weight, you may want to consider eliminating or reducing sugar and processed foods.

It may take time for you to adjust to hormonal birth control methods.

Give it time and learn more about what your body is telling you.

Water retention and bloating do not contribute to long-term weight gain,, and usually subside with time.

Other Side Effects of Birth Control

Apart from potential weight gain and fluid retention due to changes in hormones, birth control might also present these side effects:

  • Headaches, migraines, nausea, and diarrhea
  • Tenderness or soreness in the breasts and chest area
  • Body aches, tiredness, and fatigue
  • Mood swings, bursts of anger, and depression
  • Spotting and irregular periods
  • Changes in your skin condition (eczema or acne)
  • Changes in your sex drive and libido
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Changes or loss in appetite or severe cravings
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When to See a Doctor

Reach out to your doctor or a healthcare professional if your side effects do not go away after a few months on birth control.

If you have been actively trying to lose weight and do not see results after some months, seek medical advice as well.

You may also see a doctor if any of the side effects make it extremely difficult for you to function or go about your daily life. 

A gynecologist, primary care physician, or K doctor can help assess the problem and determine the proper course of treatment to help decrease symptoms and side effects of your birth control.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app? We have a team of board-certified doctors available to you 24/7.

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a doctor in minutes to find out more about your birth control options. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does birth control make it harder to lose weight?
There is no conclusive evidence that says birth control has a direct effect on a person's weight. It is important to remember that each person’s body, metabolism, and hormones react differently to birth control. There are so many different types of birth control options available, and they each present different side effects.
Can birth control make you lose weight?
Birth control is not designed to have any effect on a person’s weight, and there are not even studies to prove otherwise. Your hormones change throughout your life and as you go through each menstrual cycle. Birth control may react with these hormones to affect your weight, and this can fluctuate as your body adapts to it.
Does birth control change your body shape?
It is a common misconception that birth control methods such as birth control pills have a direct effect on your weight and the shape of your body. There is no scientific evidence to prove this. You may notice the shape of your body changing as you age, and a lot depends on your lifestyle and your hormones as well.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.