Birth control can give you just that — control over whether or not you want to get pregnant. But like any other medication, it can sometimes come with unexpected side effects. Like mood or weight changes. That doesn’t mean it’s not safe. But it's OK to think twice about how your body might react to birth control. Especially hormonal birth control, which causes these side effects more often.
How does hormonal birth control work?
We'll state the obvious: Hormonal birth control uses hormones. Specifically progestin and estrogen, which regulate your reproductive system. Those hormones can do up to three things: Prevent your ovaries from producing an egg, thicken your cervical mucus, and thin your uterine lining. All of which can make it harder to get pregnant.
There are a few different types of hormonal birth control options, like:
You might have also heard of non-hormonal BC. Like the copper IUD, condoms, and contraceptive gel. They work by blocking sperm from reaching an egg, and don't typically affect your body or mind in the same way as hormonal BC. (Btw, we’ve got more on both kinds of birth control here.)
So does birth control make you moody?
The answer's not as straightforward as you might have wanted. In general, Dr. Kallen explained that there isn't enough data on all forms of birth control to say, 'Yes, they can impact your mood.' But there's more research around birth control pills — likely because they're the most common form of BC in the US. Some studies show that they may exacerbate feelings of depression. But Dr. Dweck said it may also improve moods for some people who experience severe PMS.
Does birth control make you gain weight?
Again, not as simple of an answer. Some people experience weight gain while on combination birth control pills — in some cases, because of water retention, said Dr. Dweck. And for those who do, it's usually minimal. But in many other cases, people don't gain weight.
Overall, there’s not enough evidence to connect birth control hormones (remember: progestin and estrogen) to weight gain. Even methods that only release progestin (think: the shot, the mini pill, and the implant) have “conflicting studies” on whether or not they can cause weight gain, explained Dr. Kallen. Partly because it’s hard to rule out other life changes that could contribute to body changes. Example: Going off to college.
What other birth control side effects should I look out for?
Other side effects of birth control vary based on the type of birth control. And some of them wear off after the first few months, once your body gets adjusted to the added hormones. Here’s what they may include when it comes to each form of birth control…
Birth control pills side effects
Spotting between periods
Hormonal IUD side effects
Period changes (think: lighter flows)
Birth control implant side effects
Changes in menstrual bleeding (think: spotting between periods or no menstrual bleeding at all)
Birth control patch side effects
Vaginal ring side effects
Increased vaginal discharge
Birth control shot side effects
So how do I know what kind of birth control is right for me?
That’s where your doctor comes in. Talk to them and share any concerns you have about body or mood changes. “There's some trial-and-error involved,” said Dr. Dweck. So if you find that one method just isn’t working for you, let your doc know. Pro tip: Keep a journal about how birth control makes you feel physically and emotionally. It can help you and your doctor decide your next move.
There are a few key factors to consider when choosing a birth control method. Including the potential side effects. While no one can predict what you will and won't experience on each form of birth control, you can at least go into your decision knowing the options out there are safe. And it might take some time to figure out what works best for you.
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