I just started having sex, and I really don’t want to get pregnant. But my friend said that birth control made her gain weight, and I don’t want that either! What do I do?

Great question! First of all, condoms can help protect you against pregnancy and STIs without any weighty worries. While you’re on the search for your contraceptive soul mate, use condoms correctly in the meantime—every time. Consistent and correct condom use is the only way to protect against STIs! It’s a good idea to not rely on condoms as your primary form of birth control, though. Even though they’re extremely effective when used perfectly, condoms can still slip or rip.

It can be tricky to settle on the right method of pregnancy prevention, especially if you have big questions about potential side effects. The good news is that there are a LOT of methods of birth control out there. Each person’s experience with each method can be completely different, so it’s worth trying until you find your perfect match. Research has shown that all but one birth control method—the shot, or Depo-Provera, which has been correlated with weight gain in some people—are weight neutral, meaning that they shouldn’t make you put on pounds. While using either combined (estrogen and progestin) or progestin-only birth control methods, some people experience subtle and temporary changes, like increased water retention or larger breasts. This could show up as a slightly higher number on the scale, but likely won’t be super noticeable to you or anyone else. If you find yourself gaining weight after starting birth control, take a look at your diet, exercise, stress, and sleep patterns before changing methods. If you’d prefer to eschew hormones altogether, ask your provider about these effective methods of non-hormonal birth control.

There’s a lot of emphasis placed on taking care of our bodies through dieting and exercising in order to look a certain way. Taking charge of your sexual health, though, is an essential and empowering part of taking care of your body. Let your medical provider know about your concerns, and talk with them about your options to stay baby-free. If you’re finding yourself preoccupied with worries about your weight, tell your provider. Navigating body blues in our culture can be tough, and sometimes you need to reach out for support!