Have you gained weight over the years? If you have an intrauterine device (IUD) for birth control, you may wonder if it’s contributing to your weight gain. However, your weight gain probably has more to do with your natural aging process and lifestyle choices rather than your birth control.

What Is an IUD?

An IUD is one form of contraceptive used by women. It’s a small device that your doctor inserts into your uterus. It’s one of the most effective methods of reversible birth control.

Two forms of IUDs are available:

Copper IUDs

The copper IUD (ParaGard) is a plastic, T-shaped device with copper wire wrapped around it. It creates an inflammatory reaction in your uterus, which is toxic to sperm. This helps prevent pregnancy. The device lasts up to 10 years before you need to replace it.

The copper IUD may cause side effects, such as:

  • anemia
  • backaches
  • cramping
  • vaginitis
  • painful sex
  • bleeding between periods
  • heavy bleeding during periods
  • severe menstrual pains
  • vaginal discharge

Weight gain isn’t a listed side effect of the copper IUD.

Hormonal IUDs

The hormonal IUDs Mirena and Skyla are plastic T-shaped devices that release the hormone progestin into your uterus. They thicken your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching and fertilizing your eggs. They also thin your uterine lining and helps prevent your eggs from being released. The Skyla IUD lasts up to three years before you need to replace it, and the Mirena IUD can last for up to five years before it needs to be replaced.

Hormonal IUDs may cause side effects, such as changes in your menstrual bleeding and missed periods. Other side effects include:

  • acne
  • depression
  • heavy bleeding during menstruation
  • headaches, such as migraines

Hormonal IUDs also list weight gain as a possible side effect. However, according to the Mirena website, fewer than 5 percent of women using it experience weight gain.

If you choose to use an IUD, your doctor will have to insert it. You should regularly check to make sure the device is still in place. To do this, you need to confirm that the string attached to your IUD is still in your cervix. You should never touch the IUD itself.

Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any side effects after the IUD is inserted that concern you.

IUDs don’t prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You should use other barrier methods, such as condoms, to help protect yourself and your partner from STIs.

Cost of an IUD

Gaining Weight and Using an IUD

It’s commonly assumed that using certain contraception methods leads to weight gain. However, studies indicate that most women tend to gain weight during their reproductive years, regardless of their chosen birth control methods.

The National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health reviewed several studies on weight gain and copper IUDs. It found no evidence that IUD use affects weight.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, hormonal forms of birth control probably won’t cause you to gain a lot of weight either. If you think you’ve gained weight because of your hormonal contraceptive, you should talk to your doctor. There are many forms of contraceptives available. You should use one that works best for you.

Learn more: Can copper IUDs cause weight gain? »

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Managing your weight is a lifelong endeavor. More than 60 percent of women in the United States are overweight, reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Doing what you can to maintain a healthy weight and avoid significant weight gain is important to your overall health. You can use the body mass index scale to determine if your weight is normal.

If you’d like to lose weight, avoid eating more calories than you burn each day. Follow these tips to have well-balanced diet:

  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean sources of protein.
  • Avoid high-fat meats, fried foods, and sweets.
  • Drink plenty of water and drink it in place of high-calorie beverages such as soda.

You should avoid fad and elimination diets that deprive you of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need.

To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, you also need to get regular physical exercise. For optimum health, your weekly exercise routine should include:

  • aerobic exercises, such as running, walking, bicycling, or swimming
  • strength-training exercises, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands
  • stretching exercises

You should spend at least 150 minutes on moderate-intensity aerobic activities every week. According to the HHS, you may need to do more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week to lose a significant amount of weight. Making healthy food choices and engaging in regular physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Managing Your Overall Health

Finding the right birth control for you and managing your weight are important factors in living a healthy lifestyle. Make sure you talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your IUD or your weight. If you exercise and eat a well-balanced diet, but you still notice a significant fluctuation in your weight, there may be a medical reason for it. Your doctor can help you find the best IUD for you based on your lifestyle, health, and reproductive plans. 

Learn more: Mirena vs. Paragard vs. Skla: Choosing the right IUD »