Your friend from work swears that she figured out why she suddenly packed on four extra pounds last month: She started a new type of birth control pill. This is a story you’ve heard before—we know, we have too—but let’s put it to rest once and for all. It’s a myth.
How do we know? We asked a doctor. “There’s a very minimal to no chance of weight gain for all methods of birth control,” says OB-GYN Adeeti Gupta, M.D., founder and CEO of Walk In GYN Care in Queens, New York. “It’s a total myth that birth control causes real weight gain.”
But your friend swears her pants feel tighter. What gives? We picked Dr. Gupta’s brain for some more insight.
So none of the methods of birth control on the market will make me gain weight?
Not exactly. While it’s true that no method of birth control will make you gain significant weight or put you at risk of continuously becoming heavier, you might notice a slight, three- to five-pound increase at the very beginning if you start an implant (like Nexplanon) or injectable (like Depo-Provera). But this “weight” is a hormonal reaction to the new drug in your system that will likely reverse itself after your system levels out, Dr. Gupta advises.
“Weight gain is very uncommon, but if someone experiences it after starting one of these methods, she should know it will subside over time,” she says. “Being on birth control doesn’t make it harder to lose weight either, even if the weight is a (rare) symptom of the drug itself.”
Are any brands or types of birth control linked to weight gain?
Dr. Gupta tells us we don’t need to stay away from any brands out there if we’re worried about gaining weight since it’s the composition of the contraceptive itself, not the drug, that might—we stress this strongly—lead to a few superficial pounds.
“There’s no weight-gain risk with a copper IUD,” Dr. Gupta says, referring to the intrauterine device (like Paragard) that is inserted into the uterus. Women who opt for a hormonal IUD instead (like Mirena) might see a slight gain—think one to two pounds—but this will come and go swiftly, if at all. Those who opt for the pill (like Loestrin), ring (like NuvaRing) or patch (like Ortho Evra) might notice “a little bit of water retention in the first few months,” Dr. Gupta says, but this isn’t body weight or fat, so it will go away (promise!).
But I read that heightened levels of estrogen (one of the active ingredients in birth control) will make me hungrier than usual. Could that cause me to gain weight?
This is true, but these aren’t your mama’s contraceptives. Today’s methods of birth control contain a different formula than what was once the norm when the pill was invented in the 1950s. Back then, it contained a whopping 150 micrograms of estrogen, according to the National Institutes of Health, but today’s pills and the like have between 20 and 50 micrograms—in other words, not enough to make you gain weight.
This medical advancement is just one of the many reasons we’re lucky to be women in the 21st century instead of in the ’50s, when the pill was just emerging (and frankly, not all that great). All the options currently available take into consideration the many different reasons a woman might need or want the prescription—to treat acne, combat problematic ovarian cysts, prevent pregnancy or help treat PCOS—without the risks and side effects our moms and aunts had to endure.
So nope, your birth control pill isn’t to blame. Case closed.