Does Your Body Change on Birth Control?

Reviewed on 4/15/2021

Hormonal birth control (birth control that contains estrogen and/or progesterone) can cause changes in the body, such as changes in body fat distribution, bloating/fluid retention, and reduced muscle mass.
Hormonal birth control (birth control that contains estrogen and/or progesterone) can cause changes in the body, such as changes in body fat distribution, bloating/fluid retention, and reduced muscle mass.

Birth control (contraception) describes methods used to prevent pregnancy. There are numerous types of birth control. Some types of birth control are used by women, and some types are used by men. Some types work to prevent pregnancy long-term or permanently, and others must be used each time a person has sexual intercourse. Some are available over-the-counter (OTC) and others are available only by prescription.

Some types of birth control can cause changes in the body. Hormonal birth control methods used by women that contain estrogen and/or progesterone may cause:

  • Changes in body fat distribution
    • While women may feel as if they gain weight with hormonal birth control, this is generally not the case
    • Women on hormonal birth control may store more fat in the hips and thighs (more of a “pear shape”) and breasts
  • Bloating/fluid retention
    • Women using hormonal birth control may retain more fluid while they are using the contraception
  • Reduced muscle mass
    • Hormonal birth control may reduce a woman’s ability to gain muscle mass through exercise

What Are Types of Birth Control?

  • Barrier methods
  • Pericoital birth control, used at the time of sex
    • Cervical caps
    • Diaphragms 
    • Spermicidal sponges 
    • Spermicides
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Long-acting birth control 
    • Copper-containing intrauterine device (IUD)
    • Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine device (IUD)
    • Single-rod progestin implant (Nexplanon)
  • Permanent procedures
  • Emergency contraception, used right after unprotected intercourse 
    • “Morning after” pills
      • Hormonal (Plan B One-Step, available without a prescription) 
      • Nonhormonal (Ella)
  • “Natural” birth control 
    • Does not require medication, devices, or surgery
    • These methods are the least effective

QUESTION

Which of the following are methods for contraception? See Answer

What Are Side Effects of Birth Control?

Side effects of birth control depend on which method you use. 

Side effects of barrier methods and pericoital birth control are minimal. Products containing spermicides may cause local irritation. Spermicide-coated condoms are associated with an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in female partners. 

  • Side effects of hormonal birth control such as the pill, patch, ring, or injection include:
  • Side effects of long-acting birth control include:
    • Copper-containing intrauterine device (IUD)
      • Heavier menstrual periods
      • More cramps during periods
    • Levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine device (IUD)
      • Decreased menstrual bleeding
      • Some women may stop having periods 
    • Single-rod progestin implant (Nexplanon)
      • Irregular bleeding
  • Side effects of permanent procedures such as vasectomy (for men) and tubal ligation, (for women) include surgical risks, such as:
  • Side effects of emergency contraception, used right after unprotected intercourse include:

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Reviewed on 4/15/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/birth-control-which-method-is-right-for-me-beyond-the-basics?search=birth%20control%20options&source=search_result&selectedTitle=6~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=6

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/barrier-and-pericoital-methods-of-birth-control-beyond-the-basics?search=birth%20control%20options&topicRef=8421&source=see_link

https://ec.princeton.edu/questions/ecsideeffects.html

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20181003-does-the-birth-control-pill-make-you-fat