Can Birth Control Make You Tired?

Taking hormonal birth control comes with a lot of positives. It prevents pregnancy. It can help regulate your period. And, when used correctly, hormonal birth control is up to 99.9% effective. But birth control is just like any other medication in that it comes with potential side effects. Fatigue is just one of them.

Research on whether hormonal birth control can really make you tired is limited and conflicting. In this article, the reasons for fatigue related to your monthly cycle will be explored, as well as other potential reasons for tiredness that you should speak to your doctor about.

Tired woman sitting at a computer with hands over her eyes

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What the Research Shows

The side effects of hormonal contraceptives are under-researched. This is particularly true when it comes to the effects birth control can have on sleep and tiredness.

A 2020 study of more than 2,000 women found that hormonal contraceptive users had more insomnia symptoms and increased levels of daytime sleepiness.

But an older study found a lower percentage of hormonal contraceptive users woke up during the night. Similarly, in 2013, researchers noted a link between hormonal birth control and more time spent asleep.

The results of the studies on sleep and hormonal birth control are conflicting and sparse, which proves that more research is needed in this area.

Hormonal Birth Control May Be the Culprit

Fatigue is listed as a side effect of some hormonal birth control methods. Most side effects of birth control, including excessive tiredness, can be attributed to hormones in the contraceptive, so the higher the hormone level in your birth control, the more likely you are to feel side effects.

Progesterone, a hormone that naturally fluctuates during your monthly cycle, can cause you to be tired. So, when you use progestin-only birth control, you’re adding more progesterone to your body, which is potentially making you more tired.

The good news? Side effects from hormonal birth control usually go away after two or three months after starting them, and they don't happen to everyone who takes them.

The term progestin is used for any natural or man-made substance that has properties similar to natural progesterone.

Types of Hormonal Birth Control

There are two types of hormonal birth control:

  1. Combination hormonal birth control: Combination birth control methods contain both synthetic estrogen and some type of progestin.
  2. Progestin-only birth control: These are good options if you cannot use birth control that contains estrogen.

Combination Birth Control

  • Combination birth control pills contain artificial versions of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Combined birth control pills must be taken every day and at the same time
  • NuvaRing is a flexible ring containing both hormones (estrogen and a progestin) that's about 2 inches in diameter. It's inserted into the vagina. The NuvaRing is in place for three weeks. On week four, you take it out.
  • The Patch is applied to the skin and delivers a dose of both hormones. You need to replace the patch every week (for three weeks). During week four, you keep the patch off.

Progestin-Only Birth Control

  • Mirena IUD: Mirena is a type of intrauterine device inserted into your uterus by a healthcare provider. Mirena releases progesterone continuously over a seven-year period as a way to prevent pregnancy
  • Skyla, Kyleena, and Liletta IUDs: Also known as mini IUDs, these IUDs release a lower dose of progesterone than Mirena and are considered a great birth control option for teenagers and people with a uterus who haven't given birth. Skyla works for up to three years, Kyleena works for up to five years, and Liletta works for up to seven years.
  • Nexplanon: Nexplanon is a progestin-only birth control insert. This single rod is inserted into your upper arm, where the progestin is slowly released. It is good for three years of use.
  • Depo-Provera: Depo-Provera is a progestin-only hormonal contraceptive injection that you get every 11–13 weeks.
  • The Minipill: The minipill is a progestin-only type of birth control pill. 

PMS

Fatigue is a frequent symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is a group of symptoms that some people experience shortly before and during their period. These symptoms are due to hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle.

It is estimate that as many as three out of four people who get periods experience some form of PMS symptoms. Some PMS symptoms that may accompany period fatigue include:

  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems
  • Appetite changes
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Cramps
  • Bloating

Other Reasons for Fatigue

If your hormones aren’t to blame for low energy levels, there are lots of other things that could be causing you to feel sleepy. These include:

  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, especially of ironvitamin B12, and vitamin D
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Medical conditions—for example, obstructive sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, or diabetes

If you struggle with persistent sleepiness or fatigue, talk to your healthcare provider who can determine the underlying cause and get you started on the right treatment.

Summary

Research on whether birth control can make you tired is inconsistent, and more studies are needed to prove a link. While many birth control methods list fatigue as a symptom, hormonal shifts in PMS may also be to blame for tiredness.

A Word From Verywell

Everyone reacts differently to birth control, so just because a friend hasn't had any ill effects from taking the pill, doesn't mean it won't affect you. If you are feeling tired all the time and wondering if your birth control is to blame, speak to your doctor about trying another method.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does hormonal birth control work?

    Hormones in birth control prevent pregnancy by:

    • Stopping or reducing ovulation (the release of an egg from an ovary)
    • Thickening cervical mucus to keep sperm from entering the uterus
    • Thinning the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg is less likely to attach
  • What are the side effects of birth control?

    Side effects of birth control vary from person to person, but they may include fatigue, spotting, and nausea. Most side effects go away within two to three months, once the body adjusts to the hormones.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Hachul H, Andersen ML, Bittencourt L, Santos-Silva R, Tufik S. A population-based survey on the influence of the menstrual cycle and the use of hormonal contraceptives on sleep patterns in São Paulo, Brazil. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2013 Feb;120(2):137-40. doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2012.08.020

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