How Birth Control Affects Weight Gain

Simple Health
Simple Health
Updated: Aug 7th, 2019

A side effect that makes many women wary of birth control pills is weight gain. We get it—you want to retain control over your body when you start a new medication, and the potential of gaining weight is a scary one.

To date, over 40 studies have proven that there is no link between oral contraceptives and significant weight gain. While some women gain 1-4 pounds within the first month or so of starting a contraceptive, it’s also common for these 1-4 pounds to melt away within the first 2-3 months, when the side effects of a new birth control typically wear off. That’s because these few potential pounds are usually water weight, not fat. Hormonal birth control contains estrogen, which increases water retention and insulin levels. Holding more water means gaining more weight, but these pounds will usually flush away with your first period. Higher insulin levels mean energy from carbohydrates gets redirected toward fat cells more readily than normal, which can result in weight gain. If you’re really concerned about your weight fluctuating on the pill, try a brand that has less than 20 mcg of estrogen.

While the pill may cause short-term weight gain, the Depo-Provera hormone shot has been linked to longer-term weight gain. About a quarter of Depo-Provera recipients will experience a 5% weight gain within six months of receiving the shot.

If you’ve just started a new method of birth control and are worried about gaining weight, try increasing your exercise, decreasing your carbohydrate intake and incorporating diuretics (like apple cider vinegar) into your diet to stimulate urination. If your weight still doesn’t return to normal after a few months, look at other factors in your life. Oftentimes women start the pill at stressful periods in their life, like adolescence, starting or graduating college or the beginning of a serious relationship. These lifestyle changes can often be the culprit of weight gain, so don’t be too quick to blame your birth control. That being said, if you continue to be concerned about weight gain over time, chat with your doctor about alternative options.

At Simple Health, we offer an online service for getting a birth control prescription, but we don't stop there. We know that it can be a journey to find the birth control method that works for you, so whether you're gaining weight or experiencing other unwanted side effects, we're committed to working with you until you find the right fit. Regardless of how long it takes, our care team is here to help you navigate your options.

Concerned about other side effects? Read more about them here.

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