Hormonal contraception and obesity

Katharine B. Simmons, Alison B. Edelman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The rising rate of overweight and obesity is a public health crisis in the United States and increasingly around the globe. Rates of contraceptive use are similar among women of all weights, but because contraceptive development studies historically excluded women over 130% of ideal body weight, patients and providers have a gap in understanding of contraceptive efficacy for obese and overweight women. Because of a range of drug metabolism alterations in obesity, there is biologic plausibility for changes in hormonal contraception effectiveness in obese women. However, these pharmacokinetic changes are not linearly related to body mass index or weight, and it is unknown what degree of obesity begins to affect pharmacokinetic or pharmacodynamics processes. Overall, most studies of higher quality do not demonstrate a difference in oral contraceptive pill effectiveness in obese compared with non-obese women. However, data are scant for women in the highest categories of obesity, and differences by progestin type are incompletely understood. Effectiveness of most non-oral contraceptives does not seem to be compromised in obesity. Exceptions to this include the combined hormonal patch and oral levonorgestrel emergency contraception, which may have lower rates of effectiveness in obese women. The purpose of this review is to summarize evidence on contraceptive use in women with obesity, including differences in steroid hormone metabolism, contraceptive effectiveness, and safety, compared with women of normal weight or body mass index using the same methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1282-1288
Number of pages7
JournalFertility and sterility
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016


  • Contraception
  • effectiveness
  • obesity
  • pharmacokinetics
  • safety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Hormonal contraception and obesity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this