Which Birth Control Causes Weight Gain?
October 02, 2023
For many women, birth control is an essential part of reproductive health. However, making decisions regarding birth control can be confusing, primarily when you've heard that certain types might cause weight gain.
Our expert, obstetrician-gynecologist Melanie Kaufer, M.D. at Hackensack University Medical Center, shares which kinds of birth control cause unwanted side effects, ultimately leading to unintentional weight gain.
Can Birth Control Cause Weight Gain?
While weight gain caused by birth control is rare, some women gain a little weight when they start taking birth control pills.
Birth control does not directly cause weight gain, but some side effects of the pill can result in weight gain:
- Fluid retention: High levels of estrogen can cause fluid retention, but popular modern-day birth control methods contain low estrogen levels to minimize weight gain caused by fluid retention. “Hormonal birth control can indirectly cause weight gain,” says Dr. Kaufer. “However, the weight gain is typically limited to the first few months of taking the pill.”
- Increased appetite: Progestin—a synthetic form of progesterone—found in many forms of birth control can increase appetite.
“If you’re concerned about weight gain, talk to your doctor about which method and brand of birth control is best for you,” says Dr. Kaufer.
How Can I Pick the Right Birth Control For Me?
When it comes to choosing a birth control method that's right for you, it's important to consider your individual needs and preferences. Everyone's body responds differently to the various types of contraception, so it's important to do your research before making a decision.
“Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor or health care provider about any concerns or questions you may have. Keep in mind any potential side effects, such as weight gain, and how they may impact your overall comfort level,” says Dr. Kaufer. “When discussing birth control with your doctor, it’s important to ask about each method’s symptoms, longevity, effectiveness and maintenance.”
What to Know About Over-the-Counter Birth Control
While many birth control methods require a prescription, on July 13, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first over-the-counter oral contraceptive, Opill. The progestin-only pill is available at drug, grocery and convenience stores and online starting in early 2024.
“Over-the-counter access to birth control will improve reproductive health for women across the country,” says Dr. Kaufer. “Opill has many similar side effects as existing birth control methods and is more than 90 percent effective.”
How Can I Reduce the Risk of Weight Gain?
While it’s rate that birth control directly causes weight gain, there are additional measures you can take to reduce your risk:
- Develop an exercise routine. Make sure you’re getting 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week.
- Stabilize eating habits. Make healthy food choices, including fruits, vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy.
- Manage stress. Reduce your stress levels by getting enough sleep and taking time to meditate or do some mindfulness exercises.
“Ultimately, choosing the best birth control for you is a personal decision that should align with your lifestyle and priorities,” says Dr. Kaufer.
Next Steps & Resources:
- To make an appointment with an OB/GYN near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn more about women’s health services at Hackensack Meridian Health.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.