Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team. Updated on November 10, 2022
Is there a Best Birth Control for Weight Loss?
Birth control pills won’t decrease appetite or improve a woman’s metabolism. However, some birth control pills (those with drospirenone) can have a slight diuretic effect, which decreases water retention in women who would otherwise retain water or bloat. We’ve also seen hormones give women the munchies. But each person is different. Often the more androgenic progestins will give women the munchies. The shot, aka Depo-provera, is known to give those who use it the munchies.
Millions of women in the U.S. take hormonal birth control to prevent unintended pregnancy and alleviate adverse health conditions and side effects. Know that there are 40 different types of birth control pills, and every woman will respond differently to each one. For hormonal contraceptive methods, there are a few birth control side effects that women need to be aware of before starting the pill, such as water retention, and bloating.
What are the Different Types of Hormonal Birth Control that Can Potentially Cause Weight Gain?
Non-hormonal birth control methods will not affect someone’s weight. But some hormonal contraceptives can cause side effects.
- birth control pills
- Hormonal IUDs
- Birth control patches (Twirla, Xulane)
- Birth control shots
- Birth Control vaginal rings (Annovera, Nuvaring, EluRing)
- Birth control Implant
Often the more androgenic progestins will give those with uteri the munchies but it depends on the dosage of the progestin in the method and each person with a uterus responds differently to different dosages.
The shot, aka Depo-provera, is known to give some of those who use it the munchies.
Copper IUDs and barrier methods will not cause weight gain/loss side effects.
What is the Primary Reason Birth Control Causes Weight Gain?
Research has shown that if you put 100 people on the birth control pill and 100 people not on the pill and follow their weight, the 100 people on the pill, on average, weigh 1 pound less. This is because those on the pill do not bloat up and down and those NOT on the pill do (so they average 1 pound more over the month).
In some cases, birth control can cause water retention, which increases the number on the scale and also gives the appearance of excess weight. In some cases though, birth control pills can also increase appetite and cause a woman to consume excess calories, leading to weight gain. If birth control pills are causing water retention, stopping the pills will reverse this side effect and lead to weight loss. If your pill is giving you the munchies, talk to your doctor to switch to a less androgenic progestin.
Which Types of Birth Control are Responsible for Weight Gain Side Effects?
Birth control pills prevent ovulation and trick the body into thinking it is already pregnant. Excess estrogen in birth control pills is the primary vehicle for preventing ovulation and making the body think it has already conceived. But estrogen can cause the body to retain water which can give the illusion of weight gain.
Water retention occurs when renin-angiotensin, a compound that the kidneys create, is stimulated via excess estrogen circulating throughout the body. The higher the amount of estrogen in a birth control pill, the more water a woman might retain while taking the pill.
Most birth control pills contain between 30 and 35 micrograms of estrogen. Those pills with higher estrogen will promote higher levels of water retention than pills with lower levels.
Some birth control pills, like Yaz or Yasmin, contain drospirenone, a progestin. Drospirenone acts as a diuretic and can help decrease bloating However, women who have a history of blood clots, high blood pressure, adrenal disease, or take NSAIDS frequently should not take a birth control pill with drospirenone.
It’s also important to note that individual differences will account for weight gain when taking birth control. Some women are more prone to water retention than others, and birth control can worsen this natural tendency.
The shot, aka Depo-provera, is known to give some of those who use it the munchies. The birth control shot lasts 3 months and once it is in you, we can’t take it out. We have to wait for it to wear off.
Different Causes of Weight Gain
The myth that birth control can make you gain weight is just that, a myth! Yet, despite this misconception, many people avoid taking hormonal birth control because they don’t want to experience any negative weight changes or an increase in body weight. Birth control pills will not decrease your appetite or improve your metabolism. Lifestyle factors can also affect your weight, so we recommend eating unhealthy things you may crave in moderation rather than consuming them in unlimited quantities. Also, exercising regularly may reduce weight gain or promote weight loss if you wish to lose weight.
The research proves that hormonal birth control improves women’s health regardless of weight changes. However, there are 40 types of birth control pills and you can’t know in advance how each one will affect your body. The best determinant of what will work for you is genetics. Thus, we suggest asking your mother, aunt, and older sister what works for them. Also, Pandia Health has come up with an algorithm based on age, BMI, race as a proxy for genetics, and your health history to minimize side effects.
How to treat weight gain on birth control
Talk to your doctor
Ask your doctor for a lower androgenic effect of progestin.
A Healthier Diet
Hormonal contraceptives can change your overall shape and body composition. Some people using progesterone-containing birth control can feel hungrier than usual. We understand; it is difficult to make wise choices when our hormone levels are causing us to crave junk food. However, we often gain weight unintentionally when we overindulge in junk food, which is more difficult to lose than fluid retention. Sugar and salt are the two main cravings you may experience when your progesterone levels rise. Unfortunately, sugary foods can cause us to gain weight quickly and easily; salty foods can cause us to retain fluid (causing the scale to appear as if we have gained weight). Changing your diet may help you lose weight and improve your overall health.
It gets better with time
Almost all medicines have side effects, and hormonal birth control is no exception. Your body will adjust to your new hormone levels after three months of consistently using your birth control. You might experience some minor symptoms during this time; however, the degree to which you are affected will vary from person to person. Weight variation often occurs during the introductory period, when a person may gain or lose weight. However, the weight gain is often bloating and fluid retention rather than a change in body fat. Most people stop experiencing symptoms after three months; however, if you experience continued symptoms, consult your doctor to see if you would be better off using a different birth control method.
We recommend regular exercise, which can help you lose weight and release endorphins, which will improve your mood. Regardless of what you do, as long as you enjoy it and can do it consistently, it doesn’t matter! We recommend you consult a doctor if you are experiencing significant weight gain and have already changed your diet and exercise routine. A change in weight like this may be due to an underlying health issue. For example, thyroid disorders and diabetes can cause sudden, unexplained weight gain.
What types of birth control stimulate appetite?
The shot, aka depo-provera, is most famous for giving users the munchies.
Some birth control pills can cause women to feel hungrier than usual, which can lead to excess calorie consumption and weight gain. Unlike water retention, this type of weight gain is much harder to get rid of and is more permanent. It can be incredibly hard to make smart diet choices when a person is experiencing cravings for calorie-dense foods thanks to hormones.
Certain birth control pills or birth control shot can increase insulin levels. High levels of insulin cause any calories obtained from carbohydrates to be converted into fat cells. Women who already have abnormal glucose metabolism are at high risk of experiencing this side effect.
The types of hormonal birth control that are the biggest culprits for appetite stimulation are pills with higher levels of estrogen and those with higher androgenic effect progesterones. For women who do experience weight gain on the pill, the average weight gained is 4.4 pounds within 12 months on a progestin-only pill.
Also, if a woman experiences significant weight gain after taking the pill, birth control isn’t necessarily to blame. It’s possible that another health issue is causing weight gain, and it’s crucial that women speak to their doctor if this happens. Thyroid disorders and diabetes can cause sudden, unexplained weight gain.
Can Birth Control Promote Weight Loss?
No scientific studies have proven a link between birth control and weight loss. There are some birth control pills with a diuretic effect, such as Yaz/Yasmin, this means that the pill will make you pee more and if you are prone to water retention, you might lose some water weight on them.
Best Birth Control Pill for Weight Loss
Unfortunately, there’s no scientific proof that birth control pills cause weight loss. The birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin, however, contain a hormone called drospirenone. This hormone acts as a diuretic, so some users may experience less water retention than other birth control options or may lose a few pounds. The best thing you can do for your weight is to follow the advice above and keep those period munchies under control.
Best birth control to avoid weight gain
Take control of your reproductive health and weight with the right birth control method. Explore our expert guide for the best options for weight loss and get personalized advice for a prescription that suits you.
How to Prevent Gaining Weight on Birth Control?
Women who are concerned about water retention, bloating, and weight gain while on birth control, should steer clear of birth control shots and high-dose estrogen (50mcg or more) containing birth control pills. There are 8 different progestins and Pandia Health’s doctors have been trained how to choose the best pill for each person based on their age, BMI, race as a proxy for genetics, and your health history. A woman may need to try a few different types of pills before finding one that works for her lifestyle and physiology. If you do not like the side effects of hormonal birth control and may need to stick with barrier methods or use a non-hormonal IUD.
The Depo-Provera shot is the hormonal birth control that commonly has the side effect of weight gain. With this method, you also need to go to the doctor every 12 weeks for another shot. If you are someone who wants a more “set it and forget it” option, the implant or an IUD may be a better option for you.
If you’re curious about hormonal birth control pills that do not cause water retention, it’s important to speak to an experienced doctor to explore your contraceptive options. Pandia Health’s doctors are trained to help you find the best birth control pill/patch/ring for you.
We want women to feel #PandiaEmpowered, not feeling down about themselves because of the stress of the idea of weight gain can cause. Birth control is liberating, and we encourage you to own your sexual health and wellness.
While weight gain may cause stress, the benefits of birth control are plentiful. With birth control, you can make your #PeriodsOptional and you decrease your chances of an unexpected pregnancy if you are sexually active. Birth control should give you peace of mind and Pandia Health is here to help with that!
Educating yourself on birth control’s potential side effects and distinguishing fact from fiction is critical. It is a common misconception that hormonal birth control causes permanent weight gain; this is not true. Some women may gain weight, but this will likely disappear after a few months as their body adjusts to the new medication.
Pandia Health offers expert birth control doctor consultations for those concerned about weight gain or who have gained weight despite eating well and exercising. Our goal is to ensure that birth control gives you peace of mind, so our doctors are here to help you find the best birth control option for you.
Disclaimer: The above information is for general informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor/primary care provider before starting or changing treatment.