Obesity and hormonal contraception: an overview and a clinician’s practical guide

  • Sarah Cipriani
  • Tommaso Todisco
  • Irene Scavello
  • Vincenza Di Stasi
  • Elisa Maseroli
  • Linda VignozziEmail author



The growing prevalence of obesity among the fertile female population poses a considerable problem to contraceptive providers. Obese women, who are more at risk for venous thromboembolism and cardiovascular events due to their condition, might be at an even higher risk of developing thromboembolic events when on medical contraception. Combined hormonal contraceptives might be less effective in obese women and may lead to unacceptable metabolic side effects for this population. In addition, the lack of safety data for weight loss drugs and the higher risk for complications during and after pregnancy require a close surveillance of the fertility status of obese patients.


The aim of this narrative review is to summarize the available medical contraceptive options and to give the readers a practical guidance for a wise contraceptive choice with regards to obesity.


A general literature review of peer-reviewed publications on the topic “obesity and contraception” was performed using the PubMed database.


Nowadays, there are many useful tools that help clinicians in choosing among the wide range of therapeutic possibilities, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) Medical Eligibility Criteria for contraceptive use. Furthermore, the great diversity of hormonal contraceptive formulations (combined hormonal formulations; progestin-only methods) and active substances (different estrogens and progestins) allow physicians to tailor therapies to patients’ clinical peculiarities.


Long-acting reversible contraceptives [progestin-only implants, levonorgestrel-intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and copper IUDs] and progestin-only methods in general are excellent options for many categories of patients, including obese ones.

Level of evidence

V, narrative review.


Obesity Contraception Contraceptive methods Thromboembolic risk Combined hormonal contraceptives Progestin-only contraceptives 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Author Prof. Linda Vignozzi has received research grant fundings from Theramex and from Bayer. The authors Dr. Sarah Cipriani, Dr. Tommaso Todisco, Dr. Irene Scavello, Dr. Vincenza Di Stasi, and Dr. Elisa Maseroli declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not deal directly with a study conducted on animals or humans by our research group.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Andrology, Women’s Endocrinology and Gender Incongruence Unit, Department of Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences “Mario Serio”University of FlorenceFlorenceItaly

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