Can birth control implants cause weight gain?
Reviewed by Dr Bhavini Shah
A small plastic rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm, the implant works by releasing the hormone progesterone into your bloodstream, preventing you from getting pregnant. The implant is thought to be more than 99% effective, and is often chosen as contraception by women who can’t or find it difficult to use oral contraception (the pill.)
Despite the effectiveness of the implant, some women worry that getting it will lead to them gaining weight.
In this guide, we’ll look into the connection between birth control implants and potential weight changes, sort myth from fact, and make choosing the right contraception for you easier and more straightforward.
Does the contraceptive implant cause weight gain?
When considering birth control options, weight gain is a common concern for many women. Unfortunately, the answer to whether or not this is the case isn't obvious.
According to one study, while some women have reported weight gain after getting the implant, the implant itself might not be the cause.
Although some women might find they gain weight after getting the implant, this could be related to other factors like changes in lifestyle or natural body changes over time.
Everyone's body reacts differently to hormonal contraceptives. This means that while some women might notice a change in their weight after getting the implant, others might not see any difference at all.
How common is it to gain weight with the contraceptive implant?
The concern about weight gain with the contraceptive implant is a common one. Unfortunately, research varies and there’s no ‘right’ answer as yet, with data showing that while weight gain is a possibility, it’s not certain.
If you’re worried about gaining weight on the implant, talk to your doctor. They’ll be better able to discuss your personal likelihood of weight gain and give you a more accurate answer.
Contraceptive implant removal weight loss
If you’ve gained weight since starting the implant, you might wonder whether removing the implant will help you lose it. Again, since we don’t actually know whether or not the implant causes weight gain in the first place, no guarantee having it removed will mean that you lose weight.
How the body responds to removing the implant can vary. Some people might see a change in their weight, while others may not notice any significant difference. Before having the implant removed, you should consider other factors that might be affecting your weight, such as diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle, and talk to your doctor about other contraceptive options.
Birth control implant side effects
Although we don’t know exactly how the birth control implant affects weight, it does have some side effects that we’re aware of:
- Changes in periods: you might get irregular periods, lighter or heavier bleeding, or sometimes no periods at all.
- Mood swings: some women find they feel ‘moodier’ or ‘more emotional’ than usual.
- Headaches: a few women might experience headaches or migraines.
- Acne: your skin could break out in spots, or you might find you have more spots than usual.
- Breast tenderness: your breasts might feel a bit sore or sensitive.
- Abdominal pain: some women report stomach pains or discomfort.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms it’s important to keep in mind that everyone's body reacts differently, and these side effects might only be temporary. If they don’t settle down after a few months, or they’re very severe, you should speak to your doctor.
Which contraceptives cause weight gain?
Although weight gain is a concern for many women when choosing a contraceptive method, the majority of contraceptive types, from the pill to the implant, haven’t been definitively shown to affect body weight.
There is some evidence that the contraceptive injection (Depo-Provera) can cause weight if used for more than two years, but research is ongoing.
How to get the implant
Getting a contraceptive implant in the UK is a straightforward process, whether you choose to go through the NHS or privately. Here's what you need to know:
- Consultation: your first step is to have a chat with a doctor or sexual health nurse. This could be at a GP surgery, a sexual health clinic, or a private healthcare provider. They'll discuss your medical history and whether the implant is a good fit for you.
- Appointment for fitting: if you decide to go ahead, you'll have an appointment to get the implant inserted. It's a quick process, usually taking less than 30 minutes.
- The procedure: during the appointment, a trained healthcare professional will numb a small area of your upper arm with a local anaesthetic. Then, they'll gently insert the implant under your skin. It's quick and should be relatively painless.
- Aftercare: you'll get advice on what to expect after the implant is in place, such as how to look after the small wound and when you're protected against pregnancy.
- Removal or replacement: The implant can last for up to 3 years. When it's time, you can choose to have it removed or replaced. Just like insertion, this is a simple procedure.
NHS contraception services are free and people aged under 16 can use them too. If you’re under the age of consent but are sexually active, don’t be ashamed or worried about speaking to a doctor about contraception. If you go private, there will be a cost which can vary, and many services are for over 18s only.
While some women report weight changes with the contraceptive implant, there’s no evidence that the implant itself can lead to weight gain. Keep in mind that everyone's experience is different, and you may not experience any side effects at all with the implant. As always, before making any decisions you should speak to your doctor for advice.
Choosing the right contraceptive method is a significant decision, and you must have all the information you need to make the best choice for your body and lifestyle. For more information on contraception and to explore the options available to you, check out our guide to contraceptives.