We believe that all people should have reproductive autonomy, and the access to contraception that works best for their bodies and their lifestyles. Unfortunately, not all people have this. We’re here to talk about a group of people who may not have access to contraceptive products that are safe and reliable in pregnancy prevention. Overweight and obese individuals that are sexually active deserve to have birth control that they can rely on and have access to.
Who is This Impacting?
The prevalence of overweight and obese adults has been steadily rising in recent years. Currently, over 70% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Though there are health issues that may arise with higher body weight, that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. Discussion of weight and body mass index (BMI) should be a topic for individuals and their health providers. No one can judge another person’s health just by looking at them. BMI is argued to be an outdated form of measurement for health as it doesn’t take into consideration factors such as muscle mass, culture, race, sex, gender, or age.
Weight management is more complex than social representations of it would lead you to believe. Weight is impacted by socioeconomic status, structural racism, living environment, and much more on an individual level. Physical access to healthy foods, adequate finances to purchase nutritiously dense foods, and having a safe environment to exercise in are all factors that contribute to the weight of an individual.
How Is This Related to Contraception?
Although women in larger bodies can be prescribed all types of birth control, some studies have shown that certain contraceptive products may not be as effective or safe for overweight or obese users. This means some women are left without adequate pregnancy prevention, even if they are on birth control. The efficacy of some contraceptive products decrease for individuals over a higher BMI, while studies have shown that some birth control products increase the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) for obese women compared to women who are not obese. VTE refers to blood clots forming in a vein, and can result in disability or death.
Although individuals seeking contraception should receive counsel from their doctor about what products may work best for them, patients may face bias from providers when seeking birth control, and may not be given the best recommendations or care from providers. Anyone seeking contraception should be met with options that best fit them and their lifestyle, and that includes adults who are overweight or obese.
What’s the Solution?
There are limited birth control options for overweight and obese people with uteruses, so why not prevent pregnancy another way? Instead of relying on impacting the hormones within a body of a person with a uterus, where there are multiple factors that could impact the efficacy of the birth control, maybe we should look at trying to stop sperm from reaching the egg, or being able to fertilize it.
There’s more than one way to contracept and MCI has many researchers working to identify additional contraceptive targets and products focusing on the male reproductive system. The use of non-hormonal, reversible contraceptives for sperm producers takes the pressure off of overweight or obese women, leaving them to rest easy that an unintended pregnancy won’t occur. MCI’s grantees are currently researching how to block sperm leaving the body, prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg, keep sperm from swimming, and interrupt the creation and development of sperm.
All people, irrespective of weight, deserve to have reliable and safe contraception. MCI is working to make that a reality through the funding of research, as well as advocacy for groups of people that are often overlooked. If you want to discuss with us more about how overweight people need to be represented in reproductive health research, reach out to us!