Related Topics: Contraception

Link Between Diabetes and The Pill

The Pill has been associated with health risks before, but it is more dangerous for overweight women due to the synthetic progestin (artificial progesterone) it contains.

AnnA Rushton

Happily this risk does not apply to all contraceptives, but according to research that appeared recently in Health Sciences from the University of Southern California it seems that progestin-releasing long acting contraception, pacan increase the risk of type II diabetes.

This research first appeared in the journal Contraception in January 2013 and Nicole M. Bender, assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the Keck School, confirmed that the effects of progestin-only long-acting contraception on metabolic markers in obese women could indicate future health problems.

Previous contraceptive studies often only look at normal-weight women, but as it is estimated that approximately one-third of women in the U.S. are overweight and one-third are obese it is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed.

Oveweight women are at increased risk for pregnancy-related complications and are sometimes warned by their doctors not to use contraceptives containing estrogen, such as the pill, patch and vaginal ring because of the associated health risks.  These forms of contraception do increase  the risk for blood clots so viable alternatives are needed.

Which type poses the greatest risk?

This was a fairly wide ranging study of contraceptive methods and lasted for six-months. They observed the metabolic markers in three groups of obese women: a control group using non-hormonal birth control methods, including condoms, the copper IUD, and female or male sterilization; a second group with a progestin-releasing LARC device implanted in the uterus (IUD); and a third group with a progestin-releasing LARC device implanted under the skin and which lasts from 3-6 years.

The good news is that all three methods were found to be safe and effective, and they did not create changes in blood pressure, weight, or cholesterol. However, there was a 10 percent increase in fasting blood-glucose levels among the skin implant users, compared to a 5 percent increase among the IUD users and a 2 percent decrease among those using non-hormonal methods. The effects on sensitivity to insulin showed a similar trend. It is unknown if these effects would continue if the devices were used and studied for a longer period of time.”

In 2012, the same researchers reported findings that obese women receiving a progestin birth-control injection every three months may be at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Why progestins are bad news

The chief researcher reported that “Overall, we’re finding that methods such as the progestin injection and the progestin skin implant, which both have higher circulating progestin, may have an increased risk for metabolic changes compared to methods like the IUD, which only has a local effect ─ in the uterus,” she said.

They want to do further research to see if the metabolic effects they observed in the progestin-releasing implants persist or are only temporary.

Given what we know about the side effects of progestins,that would be good advice.

Further reading:

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