Birth Control Methods and Weight Gain
Regardless of the type used, a common concern amongst birth control users is whether or not the chosen method will cause weight gain. To help address this question, a breakdown of the more common types of birth control and whether or not weight gain is listed as one of the side effects can be found below.
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There are two types of birth control pills:
The combination pill is the most commonly used pill. This type of pill uses the hormones estrogen and progestin to help prevent pregnancy.
Progestin Only Pill (Minipill)
The Minipill uses progestin to help prevent pregnancy.
The Birth Control Pill and Weight Gain
The estrogen used in the combination pill can sometimes cause water retention and increased appetite. However, years of advancements in the way birth control pills are formulated have minimized such side effects.
The relationship between the birth control pill and weight gain has been scrutinized time and time again, and the end result continues to suggest that there is no direct correlation between the pill and weight gain.
Since the estrogen in a combination pill can often cause water retention and increased appetite, those using a progestin-only birth control pill may experience less significant weight changes overall. Progestin can also cause water retention but is unlikely to cause the same level of bloating as a combination pill.
Like the combination pill, the birth control patch uses both estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. The patch is applied to the skin and replaced weekly.
Birth Control Patch and Weight Gain
With the birth control patch using the same hormones as the birth control pill, the studies centred around weight gain and the birth control patch have produced similar results. While estrogen may be responsible for some weight gain due to water retention and an increase in appetite, and progestin to cause water retention, it is not likely to be the cause of any significant weight gain.
There are two types of IUDs available in Canada:
Hormonal IUD (Mirena, Kyleena, etc.)
Hormonal IUDs like Mirena and Kyleena use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy.
Non-Hormonal Copper IUD (Paragard)
The copper wire wrapped around the non-hormonal IUD prevents pregnancy by creating an unfavourable environment for sperm and eggs.
IUDs are inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. Kyleena and Mirena IUDs can remain in place for up to five years, and Paragard can remain in place for up to 10 years.
IUDs and Weight Gain
Hormonal IUDs like Mirena and Kyleena use progestin to prevent pregnancy. The use of progestin may result in a small amount of weight gain due to water retention. There is no evidence to suggest that hormonal IUDs are responsible for any major weight gain.
Weight gain is not listed as a side effect for the copper IUD. The use of hormones in other birth control methods may cause bloating and increased hunger. Since Paragard does not use hormones to prevent pregnancy, those concerns do not apply.
NuvaRing uses both estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy. It is inserted into the vagina by the user and replaced in either three or six weeks.
NuvaRing and Weight Gain
Users of NuvaRing share the same concerns as those who use the birth control pill, the patch, and hormonal IUDs. The use of estrogen in NuvaRing may cause water retention and increased hunger, while the progestin may also be responsible for some water retention. The use of these hormones is unlikely to cause significant weight gain.
Depo Provera, also referred to as Depo Shot, is an injection that is administered once every three months to prevent pregnancy.
Depo Shot and Weight Gain
Unlike hormonal IUDs that also use progestin to prevent pregnancy, a study done a number of years ago showed a correlation between Depo Shot and weight gain. In fact, 25% of the women in the study who received Depo Shot gained weight within the first six months of use.
The women who gained weight while using Depo Shot had three risk factors in common:
- They had a body mass index under 30
- They had children before starting Depo Shot
- They reported an increase in their appetite six months after starting Depo Shot
The weight gained in these cases were actual increases in body fat mass, unlike users of the birth control pill and similar contraceptives, where water retention was the main culprit. It is worth noting that 75% of the women in this study did not experience any major weight gain.
Most studies seem to indicate that birth control does not cause weight gain (with the exception of Depo Shot.) The water retention and increased hunger caused by many of the contraceptives mentioned above usually resolves itself after a few months of use.
Whether you are using birth control or not, it is essential to maintain healthy eating and lifestyle habits. Being consistent in these habits will help curb any potential weight gain. That being said, different people may have different reactions to birth control. If weight gain becomes a problem, speak to your doctor or medical professional for guidance.