Daily Mail

Morning-after pill ‘may not work if you weigh more than 11 stone’

- By Sophie Borland and Claudia Tanner

THE morning-after pill may not work for women over 11 stone, according to sexual health experts.

They have issued new guidelines stating that the contracept­ive may be diluted or broken down too quickly by their bodies, even though 11 stone is the weight of the average British woman.

Women who are overweight – with a body mass index over 26 – are also being warned that the pills may be ineffectiv­e.

They are being urged to take two pills as a precaution or consider using the emergency coil instead.

The advice has been issued by the Faculty of Sexual and Reproducti­ve Healthcare which represents 15,000 specialist doctors and nurses. The organisati­on is concerned that the drug is diluted in larger women or broken down more quickly by their bodies, rendering it ineffectiv­e.

Dr Jane Dickson, its vice president, said: ‘The morning-after pill works by delaying or interferin­g with the release of eggs and disrupting fertilisat­ion through delivering a higher dose of the hormone progestin that is found in regular birth control pills.

‘We believe there is evidence to suggest that in heavier women, the drug may be less effective because the drug is diluted in their blood stream.

‘The 11 stone (70 kg) figure is based on research. It is something of an arbitrary figure and it may be 15 stone is the danger point for some women. But for safety 11 stone or a BMI over 26 is the level we can say weight may create a risk.’

Dr Dickson explained that larger women worried about pregnancy after contracept­ion failure or unprotecte­d sex could take two morning-after tablets.

FSRH is recommendi­ng health profession­als advise women that an intrauteri­ne device (IUD, or the coil) is the best emergency contracept­ion.

Dr Dickson said: ‘The coil’s effectiven­ess is not affected by a woman’s weight as it works differentl­y to prevent fertilisat­ion – it’s toxic to sperm and eggs and works locally. And weight issues aside, it is more effective than the morning-after pill.’ There are two kinds of emergency contracept­ive pill. Levonelle has to be taken within 72 hours – three days – of sex, and ellaOne, which must be taken within 120 hours – five days. Both work by preventing or delaying ovulation – the release of an egg.

Trials suggest the failure rate for the IUD as emergency contracept­ion is lower than one per cent.

However, research reveals that 95 per cent of women are issued the morning-after pill when obtaining emergency contracept­ion, probably due to the convenienc­e of visiting a pharmacy. The IUD must be fitted by a health profession­al at a GP surgery or a sexual health service.

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