Here’s the Real Deal With Birth Control and Your Weight
By Korin Miller
You’ve probably heard at some point that there’s a relationship between birth control and your weight. And if you’ve ever gained weight while using the Pill or another hormonal method, it’s likely you’ve pointed the finger at your birth control.
But, in a disturbing trend, a growing number of women seem to be looking to their birth control method to help them actually lose weight. Thousands of women search for the term “best birth control for weight loss” each month—and experts say the concept is a really bad idea.
“One should not use birth control as a way to lose weight,” says Fatima Cody Stanford, M.D., M.P.H., M.P.A., instructor of medicine and pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Not only are no birth control medications FDA-approved for weight loss; there are no scientific studies that support a sustained benefit of weight loss from birth control.”
That might go back to the Pill’s reputation as something that can cause weight gain. Sherry A. Ross, M.D., a women’s health expert and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period, says that many women who take the Pill swear it causes weight gain, though this is kind of a myth. “The scale may show a one- to three-pound weight gain, but studies show that this is a temporary side effect and goes away after the first three months,” she says, adding that it’s likely because it’s often due to temporary bloating or excess water weight.
However, Stanford points out that Depo-Provera, the progestin-only birth control shot, has been linked with weight gain. “Persons might also note some weight gain with Mirena and other IUDs that have progestin,” she says.
If you’re trying to avoid gaining weight from your birth control method, Stanford recommends trying a combination hormonal therapy, which usually uses estrogen and progestin, and avoiding progestin-only methods. Some people have noticed that Yasmin, a combination pill of drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol leads to weight loss, but Stanford says this seems only to be due to a diureticlike effect—meaning, women are just peeing more while on it, not losing actual body fat.
Experts stress that you should choose a birth control method based on how well it works for you and makes you feel, and not focus on any potential weight-loss effects. “Birth control has many health benefits—especially the Pill—including making your period lighter, more regular, giving you less cramps, controlling acne, and balancing your hormone levels,” Ross says.