Could the morning-after pill be less effective for overweight women?

A young woman looked into the question of the effectiveness of the morning-after pill on overweight women after several unwanted pregnancies. Read on for the explanation.

During a poignant testimonial for the Belgian edition of Vice, a young woman wondered about the ineffectiveness of the morning-after pill on her body. She explained:

I got pregnant three times. Three unwanted pregnancies. And this despite taking emergency contraception, or the morning-after pill, all three times. Even though I don't have a problem with abortion or feel guilty about my choices, that’s not the subject of this article anyway, it didn't stop me from questioning myself about not feeling anything during the first one, living in a slightly traumatised state during the second one, and feeling like a real idiot during the third one.

A TV series gave her the idea

The author of this testimony admits to having been alarmed when she discovered that a pharmacist, in a TV series, specified that the morning-after pill is not as effective on bodies weighing more than 11 stone. She said:

I binge-watched the Shrill series in two days (I recommend it to you by the way). And the scene where a pharmacist explains that emergency contraception doesn't work well on bodies weighing over 75 kilos is the one that really stands out for me. Excuse me?

The start of an investigation

The young woman then began a serious investigation. The objective? To determine whether or not a woman's weight can have an impact on the effectiveness of the morning-after pill.

In the course of her research, the work of J. Berdah, a French gynaecologist and endocrinologist for the Prescrire journal stoof out from the crowd—the expert highlights a clear decrease in contraceptive effectiveness when BMI increases. Disturbing to say the least.

Following an interview with a medical gynaecologist, the young woman made other surprising discoveries on this thorny subject:

I have also noticed that certain medical guidelines do speak of emergency contraception in this context and put forward the same figures. And both articles recommend the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD) within five days of unprotected intercourse as a means of emergency contraception for overweight people. I had my answers.

An activist spirit

On her Instagram account, a 'fat activism' account, the investigator spoke to women weighing more than 11 stone, ‘a weight at which the effectiveness of emergency contraception is questionable.’

700 people agreed to respond to the survey, and the figures speak for themselves:

  • 11% had become pregnant despite taking emergency contraception
  • 85% claim to be unaware of the lack of effectiveness of the emergency pill for people weighing over 75 kilos
  • 92% say they were not informed of the possible lack of effectiveness of their emergency contraception by the person who sold them the pill
  • 96% say that even at the subsequent termination of pregnancy they were not informed
  • Among the few people who were informed about it, the majority said they learned about it from activist accounts and social networks, but very few cited their GPs, gynaecologists, or pharmacists

Were you aware that the morning-after pill could be less effective above a certain weight?

If you don't know which kind of contraception to turn to, you can ask your pharmacist or your GP for advice. This information should be given to you without any judgement. If this is not the case, change pharmacies!

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