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Birth Control and Weight

You’ve probably heard it before – “Going on the pill will make you gain weight.” Ask any group of teen girls, and they’ll probably echo this same idea. After all, it’s a common belief about birth control that seems to get passed down from generation to generation. But is it true?

Research shows that there’s not actually an established link between the most common contraceptives and weight gain. So why do we still believe this old myth? Let’s break it down.

An Old Wives’ Tale: Birth Control and Weight

Can birth control make you gain weight? This is one of the number one questions that sexual health professionals get asked on the regular. And it seems to be a strongly held belief. Like lots of ideas that get passed down generation after generation, there isn’t much motivation to question the concept. After all, if everyone knows it to be true, it must be true, right?

Not necessarily. As we dig deeper and find the medical research and professional opinions on this topic, it becomes a bit clearer: this one is an old wives’ tale.

Research Does Not Suggest a Clear Link

In fact, research does not suggest a strong link between hormonal contraceptives and weight (gain and/or loss). This goes for various types of contraception, including the most popular options like the pill, the ring, the patch, and IUDs.

Of course, everyone’s body is different, and you never know how you’ll react to medications of any kind. Also, this doesn’t mean that contraception has no side effects whatsoever. As with any medical treatment, there are potential side effects to consider when taking birth control, like nausea, headaches, breast tenderness, and mood changes. However, weight gain is not considered a likely side effect of contraception.

2 Methods of Birth Control that May Cause Weight Gain

With that said, there are two other forms of birth control that may cause minor changes in weight for some patients. This includes the birth control shot and the birth control implant. Some patients have reported minor weight gain while using these methods of contraception. However, it should also be noted that not all patients experience weight gain as a side effect, and research suggests that there isn’t a significant link established.

Other Things that Impact Weight Gain

Weight is a tricky topic, and it’s normal for a person’s body weight to change over time – even throughout the week. Here are a few factors that can lead to weight gain:

  • Muscle growth. Muscle tissue weighs more than fat, so the body tends to gain weight as it builds muscle.
  • Fluid retention. Staying hydrated is important, but weight measurements can fluctuate depending on how much water is currently in the tank.
  • Increased body fat. Additional fat tissue from a sedentary lifestyle or imbalanced diet can affect weight.
  • Age. Whether on birth control or not, it’s normal for women to gain weight as they age.

Some beliefs have sticking power – and though the research suggests otherwise, it seems like this old wives’ tale about birth control and weight gain continues to be a belief held by many!

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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