Can birth control cause depression, make you gain weight or give you acne? One of our midwives weighs in

Woman looking at birth control pills

Choosing a birth control method is an important, personal decision. Because there are so many different methods, it’s tough to know which side effects are typical or mythical.

Read on to find out whether birth control can be the cause of a mood disorder, weight gain, acne or skipped periods. Like all medications, birth control comes with risks, benefits and side effects. Talk with your provider if you have any questions – we’re here to help.

Can birth control cause depression or anxiety?

For most people, hormonal birth control does not cause or worsen mood disorders like anxiety or depression. In studies, most people don’t report changes in mood after starting hormonal birth control. However, some of these studies were of poor quality and had insufficient numbers of subjects. Tell your provider if you have a history of mood disorders or if you’re concerned about mood changes. 

Negative mood changes are most often reported with progestin-only birth control like:

  • Pills
  • Long-acting reversible contraception
  • Depo-Provera®

If you do experience a change in mental health, contact your provider to be evaluated for clinical depression and to discuss alternative contraception. If suicidal or homicidal, you should seek emergency care immediately. 

Can birth control make you gain weight?

Hormonal birth control has not been associated with significant weight changes (gain or loss) in research. People tend to gain weight over time, so it can be difficult to determine if birth control contributed to weight gain. Weight gain is most often reported with Depo-Provera® use.

Can birth control cause acne?

That depends on the type of birth control being used. Combined oral contraceptives, which contain estrogen and progestin, can be used as a treatment to decrease acne. However, progestin-only contraceptives are not effective in treating acne and can make acne worse. 

Can birth control stop your period?

Changes in bleeding depend on the type of birth control and how it is taken. It can also vary from person to person. Most people will have less bleeding overall with combined hormonal contraceptives and with progestin-only contraceptives. Irregular bleeding or spotting is most likely to occur after starting a progestin-only contraceptive. Over time, irregular bleeding decreases as your body adjusts. Depending on the kind of birth control, 10% to 50% of people will have no period (called amenorrhea).

What to do if you have birth control side effects

Discuss what you want to achieve or avoid with your provider. You aren’t locked into one method. If you’re experiencing side effects or the method isn’t a good fit for you, we can try something else. Our goal is effective birth control that you’re satisfied with. 

For people who want to avoid hormones, many nonhormonal birth control options are available.

If you have any questions about women’s health, a certified nurse-midwife can help. Board-certified and licensed through the state, certified nurse-midwives have training that includes a nursing degree, graduate degree and midwifery education program. 

Midwives provide care for women from adolescence through menopause:

  • Contraception or birth control
  • Preconception care
  • Care during pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Postpartum care
Get compassionate care from a certified nurse-midwife
Schedule a wellness appointment by calling 800.922.0000.
Heather Ramsey
Heather D Ramsey