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If you’ve ever checked out the side effects of some birth control, you may have noticed both weight loss and weight gain listed.
But is there a type of birth control that’s best for weight loss or maintaining your current weight? Read on for a deep, deep dive into the topic.
Anecdotally, you’ll often hear that people gain weight after using hormonal birth control. And it’s
But science has yet to find a strong link between the two.
Of the studies that have been carried out on birth control pills, evidence of weight gain has been described as
However, none of that means gaining weight isn’t a side effect —just that there needs to be more high quality research.
Similarly, small-scale studies have found
There are several main types of birth control:
- Hormonal. This uses synthetic hormones to prevent or delay ovulation, and it includes pills, patches, shots, and vaginal rings. You need to remember to take this form on a regular basis —daily in the case of the pill and every few weeks or months for other forms.
- Long-acting reversible contraception. Implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) fall into this category. They need to be inserted by a healthcare professional and can last up to a decade in some cases. Some forms are hormonal, while others —like the copper IUD —contain zero hormones.
- Barrier. This method is much simpler — the forms act as a physical barrier to stop sperm from going inside the uterus. But they’re not as effective. Think external and internal condoms, spermicides, diaphragms, and cervical caps.
- Emergency. Emergency contraceptives are only to be used when you’ve had unprotected sex and want to prevent pregnancy. Most come in the form of a pill, but the copper IUD is also an option.
There are a few theories. One theory suggests that the higher estrogen levels in some hormonal methods
However, there’s a second theory that states that those same estrogen levels
But it could mean that your body looks different in certain areas and your clothes fit differently. Some people are more prone to water retention than others, which would explain the individual differences.
Finally, it’s possible that birth control could simply cause an increase in body fat or muscle tissue.
Unfortunately, there is little research to prove or disprove any of these theories.
No form of birth control has been designed for weight loss. But some forms are believed to have less of a chance of creating weight gain.
Barrier methods, like condoms and diaphragms, act as a physical sperm-blocking barrier. This means they don’t contain any hormones, and there’s no way they could affect your weight.
But they don’t work as well as other contraceptives — out of 100 people, 18 to 28 will become pregnant each year when relying solely on a barrier method to prevent pregnancy.
Also known as the copper IUD, ParaGard doesn’t contain hormones either. Instead, it uses copper to stop sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg.
It’s also more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, can be kept in for up to 10 years, and can even be used as emergency contraception if needed.
As higher estrogen levels are believed to be linked to weight gain, a pill containing a lower dose of estrogen may help.
These pills usually come in a combined form, meaning they contain both estrogen and a synthetic version of progesterone.
One brand, Yasmin, uses a progesterone alternative called drospirenone, which acts like a diuretic. This means you’re unlikely to have water retention.
Pills like this are over 99 percent effective with perfect use.
Although weight loss is listed as a potential side effect of some hormonal contraceptives, no birth control has been designed to promote it.
The only way you may feel like you’ve lost weight is if you’re prone to water retention and use a contraceptive that has a diuretic effect.
Embarking on a healthy lifestyle can help you maintain your weight.
For example, you could eat a more balanced diet, engage in more physical activity, and limit the amount of salty, sugary, or fatty foods in your diet. Staying hydrated is also important.
Even if you do this, it’s possible you might still feel like you’ve gained weight. This is often a temporary side effect caused by water retention.
If you’re not happy with the way your contraception is making you look or feel, consider making an appointment with a doctor or other healthcare professional.
There are lots of options out there, and a healthcare professional can help you explore them.
Similarly, if you experience significant weight gain or loss, reach out to a healthcare professional. There could be something else going on in your body that needs examining.
Why does birth control cause weight gain?
Science hasn’t determined exactly why some birth control may lead to weight gain.
But it’s believed that higher estrogen levels can lead to more water retention or that some contraceptives may increase appetite.
Does the Yasmin birth control pill help with weight loss?
No birth control has been designed for or scientifically proven to cause weight loss.
But one of the hormones in Yasmin, drospirenone, can act as a diuretic. That means it may lead to less or no water retention, giving the illusion that you’ve lost weight.
How much weight can you gain from birth control?
There isn’t much concrete evidence of weight gain from birth control.
But a 2016 review found that, on average, people who took a progestin-only pill gained less than 4.4 pounds after 6 or 12 months.
Do you lose weight when you stop taking birth control?
If you’ve gained weight as a result of birth control, those effects will disappear within a few months of stopping it.
However, there’s also a chance that weight changes will have nothing to do with your contraceptive.
The jury’s still out on if birth control causes weight gain or weight loss. But lots of people have stories of weight-related side effects, so it’s possible.
That doesn’t mean you should use birth control as a weight loss method, as it’s unlikely to have a significant effect, if any at all.
Instead, try to craft healthy habits. And, if in doubt, speak with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.
Finally, if you need a more accessible and affordable way to get hold of birth control, consider online platforms, like Nurx or Hers.
Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.