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Plan B contraceptive (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

‘Average woman’

For women over a certain weight, Plan B morning after pill is ineffective, study finds

By WITW Staff on May 24, 2017

According to a 2013 study conducted by the CDC, the average American woman between the ages of 20 and 39 weighs 166 pounds. For African-American women, the average is slightly higher at 186 pounds. Odds are you that would be hard pressed to find a woman in America who doesn’t know that between the ages of 20 and 39 — if she’s sexually active — it is possible she could become pregnant. All of this information in itself is harmless but for one detail that remains curiously absent: If you weigh more than 176 pounds and find yourself in a situation where your birth control fails, then chances are the morning-after pill might not work for you.

A 2011 study in the journal Contraceptive, recommends that women who have a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25 should not rely on levonorgestrel or a “normal” dose of Plan B, as an effective emergency contraceptive. While the weight limits for these pills have been the topic of debate for several years, this important disclaimer is still nowhere to be found on any box of Plan B. Indeed, when a European manufacturer of a pill similar to Plan B announced that it would begin labeling its boxes with information regarding its effectiveness, it was asked by the European Medicines Agency to remove the warning from its packaging, citing that the available research was not conclusive enough to warrant concern. Since Plan B was approved by the FDA in 1999 — when the average weight for women was closer to 160 pounds — no adjustments have been made to the drug to fit the changes.

“The average woman in America spends five years trying to get pregnant and 30 years trying not to,” explained Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood in an interview with The New York Times. Although Plan B manufacturers insist that there are no weight limits, researchers have suggested that women weighing more than 176 pounds should consider taking two of the recommended doses to help ensure effectiveness. With the current cost of Plan B running at close to $50, that would mean women who lie outside the weight range could count on spending more that $100 on emergency contraception. Sadly, because statistics in this country tell us that there is a correlation between obesity and poverty, that would put the morning-after pill out of reach for many.

Although Plan B is not recommended to be used as a substitute for regular birth control, helping to lower the odds of unwanted pregnancy is one time when stepping on the scale now and then could really help.

Read the full story at Fusion.


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