Obesity in America isn’t exactly breaking news. However, its effects on the reliability of birth control may concern most people. A study recently published in the professional journal Contraception by researchers from Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University indicates birth control pills might not perform as well in obese women as they do in women of normal body mass index (BMI). Many past studies have concluded that obesity can have negative outcomes regarding drug levels in the body.
According to OSU/OHSU College of Pharmacy assistant professor Ganesh Cherala, a large population study revealed that birth control pills failed at a higher rate among obese women, mostly due to differences in how a woman’s body clears contraceptive hormones. For obese women, the time it takes for the pill to reach a steady level is delayed, which in addition to forgetting to take it or taking it late can increase pill failure.
Cherala and Dr. Alison Edelman, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at OHSU, discovered a couple of alternatives that could possibly counteract the changes. A small increase in pill dosage (from very low to low) or using the pill consistently without a “period week” off both showed an ability to mitigate the changes brought on by obesity. Switching to alternative contraception is also an option, though birth control pills are preferred by most women.
These researchers believe it’s important to find birth control methods that work for all women, despite their weight.