THURSDAY, Feb. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Hormonal contraceptives appear to thwart pregnancy just as well in overweight and obese women as those of normal weight despite markedly lower pregnancy-prevention hormone levels among heavier females, a group of reproductive experts said.
During a media briefing held Thursday by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Society of Family Planning, researchers said few large studies on contraception have included obese women, creating gaps in knowledge about the safety and effectiveness of various methods among this population.
About one-third of all American women between ages 20 and 39 are obese, and most of these women will use contraception, said Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president of external medical affairs for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
"Obesity and unintended pregnancy are two of our major health epidemics, and this is at the intersection of both," Cullins said. "Armed with additional information, we hopefully will be at a place where we can give more detailed and customized advice to women who are overweight or obese."
New findings presented Thursday indicated that pregnancy-prevention hormone levels varied widely among obese and normal-weight women using Implanon, a contraceptive implant that works for up to three years. These hormone levels ranged between 31 and 54 percent lower in obese women, whose body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher, said study author Dr. Melissa Gilliam, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
BMI is a measurement that takes both height and weight into account.
"Obese women had a much slower time to reach peak [blood] levels -- 100 hours versus 50 -- and these were never as high as in normal-weight women," said Gilliam, also board president of the Society of Family Planning, adding that the study did
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