Safety of hormonal contraception for obese women

Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2017 Dec;16(12):1387-1393. doi: 10.1080/14740338.2018.1389893. Epub 2017 Oct 11.


Obese women have special safety requirements for contraceptive choice, but the evidence supporting such decision is dispersed and sometimes conflicting. Despite being effective, well tolerated and safe for most women, hormonal contraceptives are underused by obese women due to fear of contraceptive failure, weight gain and venous thrombosis. Areas covered: We performed a comprehensive literature search to identify studies about hormonal contraception in overweight and obese women, including safety concerns. We considered the safety of hormonal contraceptives for otherwise healthy obese women and for those with comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, vascular disease, or a history of deep venous thrombosis. Expert opinion: Over time there is no convincing evidence that obesity increases the risk of contraceptive failure. Hormonal contraceptive users may have a modest weight gain that is comparable to that of non-users. Current evidence supports the safe use of combined hormonal contraceptives by obese women after detailed clinical screening to exclude comorbidities that may contraindicate the use of estrogens. Progestin-only methods are generally safe, and long-acting reversible contraceptives hold the best combination of efficacy, safety and convenience for this group, although individualization is advisable.

Keywords: Hormonal contraception; bariatric surgery; drug safety; obesity; thrombosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / administration & dosage*
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / adverse effects
  • Contraceptive Effectiveness
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / administration & dosage*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Overweight / complications*
  • Weight Gain / drug effects


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal