Q & A with Dr. Cullins: Birth Control
Does the patch work on anyone, regardless of size and shape? I heard that size affects the way a patch works on the person, so I just wanted to be sure.
The patch works for all women regardless of size. However, research has shown that the patch is slightly less effective for women who weigh more than 198 pounds. A couple of studies have also suggested that heavier women who use low-dose oral contraceptives may also be at slightly greater risk for contraceptive failure.
Although hormonal methods may be slightly less effective for women who weigh more than 198 pounds, these methods are still considerably more effective for such women than most other reversible methods, including the diaphragm, the condom, the sponge, fertility awareness methods, withdrawal, etc. The IUD is the only prescription method that can offer more protection against unintended pregnancy for these women.
The decision about what contraceptive method to use is one that should be made by each woman and her health care provider. Using hormonal methods consistently and correctly helps reduce the possibility of unintended pregnancy. Extended or continuous use may also increase effectiveness. Some women find that longer-acting methods such as the patch, the ring, or the shot are easier to use consistently and correctly. So a woman using the patch consistently and correctly and who weighs more than 198 pounds has a better chance of preventing pregnancy than a woman who sometimes forgets to take her birth control pills but weighs only 100 pounds.
Further studies are needed to help us understand whether there is a consistent relationship between body weight and hormonal contraceptive failure. In the meantime, a woman's individual needs should be considered whenever she considers choosing a hormonal contraceptive method, no matter how much she weighs.
Published: 06.09.05 | Updated: 07.11.07
This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have a medical problem, please call toll-free 1-800-230-PLAN for an appointment with the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.