Do IUDs Cause Weight Gain? – Here Are the Facts

Here’s the short answer: It’s possible. Let’s talk about how IUDs work, how they may cause weight gain and what you can do about it.

What exactly is an IUD?

An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that an OB/GYN inserts into your vagina, through your cervix, and into your uterus. It stands sort of like a guardian right in between your fallopian tubes where your ovaries live.

Most IUDs are hormonal, meaning they release reproductive hormones called progestins to help prevent pregnancy. There is one non-hormonal option though—the copper IUD (ParaGard), which prevents pregnancy because copper is toxic to sperm.

IUDs are some of the most effective birth control options out there. Less than 1% of women with an IUD will become pregnant while it’s inserted. Aside from this amazing efficacy rate, many women love IUDs because they’re convenient. Once your OB/GYN inserts the IUD, it can remain in place for 3 to 10 years depending on the specific brand.

Common side effects of hormonal IUDs include spotting and irregular periods, with many women losing a period altogether after a year. In contrast to hormonal IUDs, the copper IUD often results in heavier periods.

How can hormonal IUDs cause weight gain?

At this point, researchers aren’t 100% sure why some women notice weight gain while an IUD is inserted. That’s because there aren’t many large-scale studies that seek to answer that question.

In most cases, if a hormonal IUD does cause you to gain weight, it’s not an increase in body fat. Rather, progestin, the hormone the IUD contains, can make your body hold onto more water  and cause bloating, much like what you’d experience during a menstrual cycle. Water retention may cause the number on the scale to go up about 5 pounds but typically goes away in about 3 months once your body gets used to the hormones.

It’s worth noting that Mirena and Liletta—two hormonal IUD brands—mention weight gain as a potential side effect. In a clinical study, 5.7% of women said their weight increased while using Liletta. In real life, women using all brands of hormonal IUDs have reported weight gain, but every woman is different, so you may not have any issues with certain brands even if other women do.

Here’s another point to remember: Just because a woman with an IUD gained weight doesn’t mean the IUD caused the weight gain. One study suggests that the reproductive years, when a woman is likely to get an IUD, coincide with a period when women naturally gain weight due to other lifestyle changes—like changes in diet, alcohol intake, physical activity and overall stress levels (“The Freshman 15”, anyone?). Even in early adulthood, women often deal with health conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which can cause weight gain, and start families or build careers, which can lead to stress and added pounds.

Can the copper IUD cause weight gain?

The ParaGard package insert doesn’t list weight gain as a side effect, but what does the research say? Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer to that question either.

In a study comparing weight gain in women with hormonal IUDs to those with copper IUDs, it turns out both groups were just as likely to gain similar amounts weight (about 10 pounds in 10 years). This seems to support the idea that in most cases, women who have IUDs may be gaining weight naturally due to lifestyle.

What are birth control options that don’t cause weight gain?

If you’ve used an IUD and have noticed unwanted weight gain, you have a few options for dealing with it:

If you’re considering the pill, your best bet is to talk with your doctor to determine the most appropriate option for your body, taking into account any health conditions you have or other medications you’re taking.

Some brands like Ortho Tri-Cyclen, Yasmin and Seasonique contain both estrogen and progestin hormones, while others like Camila and Errin only contain progestin. Like progestin, estrogen can cause short-lived weight gain in some women due to water retention. Depending on how your body responds to these hormones, you may need to try multiple brands before finding the one that works best for you.

Some non-hormonal birth control options include diaphragms, condoms, cervical caps, and natural family planning, but none of these are as effective at preventing pregnancy as the copper IUD.

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