FSRH press release: FSRH releases new advice on contraception for women who are overweight or have obesity

Posted 1 July 2019

Date: 01 Jul 2019

Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements

A new evidence-based clinical guideline launched by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) tells us that there is a wide range of safe and effective contraceptive options for women who are overweight or have obesity.

  • For women with a body mass index (BMI) of 35kg/m2 or greater, the potential health risks associated with use of combined hormonal contraception (the combined pill, patch and vaginal ring) generally outweigh the benefits

    • The effectiveness of the progestogen-only implant, progestogen-only pill and progestogen-only injectable are not affected by body weight or BMI

    • The progestogen-only implant is effective for three years of use for women of all weight categories; early replacement of the implant is not necessary

  • Women with raised weight or BMI do not need a double dose of the progestogen-only pill or more frequent contraceptive injections

  • Oral emergency contraception, particularly levonorgestrel, could be less effective for women who are overweight or have obesity. The copper IUD is the most effective method of emergency contraception and is not affected by weight or BMI

Currently, it is estimated that over half of women in the UK are overweight or obese. Obesity rates continue to rise amongst women of reproductive age. This new guideline, alongside other FSRH guidelines, helps healthcare professionals provide good contraceptive advice to all women, ensuring that they have safe, effective contraception.

The guideline makes recommendations about effective contraception during use of weight loss medications and after weight loss surgery. FSRH guidance also sets out the current evidence on how the different contraceptive methods affect weight.

Dr Diana Mansour, Vice President Clinical Quality of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:

‘Until now, there has not been clear guidance on contraception for women with obesity or who are overweight. The new FSRH guidelines show that there is a good range of safe and effective contraceptive options from which a woman with a higher weight can choose.

‘Safe and effective contraception is important for all women so they can decide if and when to become pregnant. It also allows women who are planning a pregnancy the opportunity to optimise their health, including their weight before becoming pregnant, maximising their chances of a healthy pregnancy.

‘We hope the new guidelines will support healthcare professionals to provide the best evidence-based contraceptive care and advice to women who are overweight or have obesity.’


Notes to Editors

  • FSRH Clinical Guideline: Overweight, Obesity can be downloaded here
  • FSRH has recently published updated guidelines on combined hormonal contraception. The guidelines provide evidence-based recommendations and good practice points for health professionals on the use of combined hormonal contraceptives (the combined oral contraceptive pill, transdermal patch and combined vaginal ring) currently available in the UK. It can be found here
  • FSRH’s Emergency Contraception guidelines also provide recommendations on the effectiveness of different methods of emergency contraception in relation to higher body weight and can be downloaded here
  • Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet in England for 2019 by NHS Digital can be found here
  • Public Health England has pointed out that rates of obesity are increasing among women of reproductive age. An increasing number of women who become pregnant are obese – around 19% of women of reproductive age in England are obese, 3.6% are severely obese, and of these obese women 5.3% will become pregnant each year
  • The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ.

For further information please contact:
Camila Azevedo
FSRH External Affairs & Standards Manager
Email: externalaffairmanager@fsrh.org
Telephone: 02037945309