Acceptability and feasibility of a planned preconception weight loss intervention in women with long-acting reversible contraception: the Plan-it mixed-methods study

Health Technol Assess. 2023 Jan;27(1):1-224. doi: 10.3310/NKIX8285.


Background: Women with overweight (a body mass index of ≥ 25 kg/m2) or obesity (a body mass index of ≥ 30 kg/m2) are at greater risk of experiencing complications during pregnancy and labour than women with a healthy weight. Women who remove their long-acting reversible contraception (i.e. coils or implants) are one of the few groups of people who contact services as part of their preparation for conception, creating an opportunity to offer a weight loss intervention.

Objectives: The objectives were to understand if routine NHS data captured the pathway from long-acting reversible contraception removal to pregnancy and included body mass index; to identify the suitable components of a preconception weight loss intervention; and to engage with key stakeholders to determine the acceptability and feasibility of asking women with overweight/obesity to delay the removal of their long-acting reversible contraception in order to take part in a preconception weight loss intervention.

Design: This was a preparatory mixed-methods study, assessing the acceptability and feasibility of a potential intervention, using routine NHS data and purposefully collected qualitative data.

Participants: The NHS routine data included all women with a long-acting reversible contraception code. There were three groups of participants in the surveys and interviews: health-care practitioners who remove long-acting reversible contraception; weight management consultants; and women of reproductive age with experience of overweight/obesity and of using long-acting reversible contraception.

Setting: UK-based health-care practitioners recruited at professional meetings; and weight management consultants and contraceptive users recruited via social media.

Data sources: Anonymised routine data from UK sexual health clinics and the Clinical Practice Research Datalink, including the Pregnancy Register; and online surveys and qualitative interviews with stakeholders.

Results: The records of 2,632,871 women aged 16-48 years showed that 318,040 had at least one long-acting reversible contraception event, with 62% of records including a body mass index. Given the identified limitations of the routine NHS data sets, it would not be feasible to reliably identify women with overweight/obesity who request a long-acting reversible contraception removal with an intention to become pregnant. Online surveys were completed by 100 health-care practitioners, four weight management consultants and 243 contraceptive users. Ten health-care practitioners and 20 long-acting reversible contraception users completed qualitative interviews. A realist-informed approach generated a hypothesised programme theory. The combination of weight discussions and the delay of long-acting reversible contraception removal was unacceptable as an intervention to contraceptive users for ethical and practical reasons. However, a preconception health intervention incorporating weight loss could be acceptable, and one potential programme is outlined.

Limitations: There was very limited engagement with weight management consultants, and the sample of participating stakeholders may not be representative.

Conclusions: An intervention that asks women to delay long-acting reversible contraception removal to participate in a preconception weight loss intervention would be neither feasible nor acceptable. A preconception health programme, including weight management, would be welcomed but requires risk communication training of health-care practitioners.

Future work: Work to improve routine data sets, increase awareness of the importance of preconception health and overcome health-care practitioner barriers to discussing weight as part of preconception care is a priority.

Trial registration: This trial is registered as ISRCTN14733020.

Funding: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 27, No. 1.


Plain language summary

If a woman has overweight or obesity when she is pregnant, then there is a greater risk of health problems for her and her baby. About half of women of childbearing age have overweight or obesity, so we need to find ways of supporting women to lose weight before they become pregnant (described here as ‘preconception’). This can be difficult because women do not usually talk to a health-care practitioner (e.g. general practitioners, sexual health doctors, nurses) about becoming pregnant, but one group of women who do are those who need to have a long-acting reversible contraceptive (e.g. a coil or an implant) removed. This study was designed as preparatory work for a potential future study of a preconception weight loss intervention. We wanted to answer three questions: (1) would women with experience of overweight and of using a long-acting reversible contraceptive think that it would be acceptable to ask women to delay having their long-acting reversible contraceptive removed to take part in a weight loss intervention before pregnancy; (2) what did health-care practitioners think about that idea, and would they be happy to ask women to take part; and (3) can NHS information (routine data) tell us how many women might potentially take part in such an intervention? We looked at NHS routine data and the research on preconception weight loss interventions. A total of 100 health-care practitioners and 243 users of long-acting reversible contraceptives completed surveys, and 10 health-care practitioners and 20 users of long-acting reversible contraceptives took part in interviews. We found that routine data could not be used to identify people reliably. Designing a weight loss intervention that needed women to delay the removal of a long-acting reversible contraceptive was not acceptable to women. A population-based preconception weight loss intervention with a positive focus was acceptable, but, for such a programme to be delivered by the NHS, health-care practitioners need more knowledge, skills and confidence in talking about weight with patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Long-Acting Reversible Contraception*
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity* / therapy
  • Overweight* / therapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult


  • Contraceptive Agents

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN14733020