As the prevalence of obesity increases and the age of onset decreases, more women of reproductive age will be living in larger bodies. Research on weight-related efficacy and safety has informed clinical guidelines for routine and emergency contraceptive use by women with a higher body mass index; however, patient perspectives are needed to understand women in larger bodies’ experiences with contraception and contraceptive care. This scoping review summarizes the literature on women in larger bodies’ experiences with contraception with the goal of gaining a better understanding of the nature of these experiences and identifying gaps in the existing research.
Following Arksey and O’Malley’s framework, a scoping review of the literature was conducted. Four databases (PubMed, PsycINFO, SCOPUS, and CINAHL) were searched for peer-reviewed, empirical articles published in English between 2010 and 2020, with a focus on North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Data were summarized by identifying key themes in the reviewed literature.
Twenty-nine articles meeting the eligibility criteria were reviewed. The literature was predominantly quantitative (n = 27), with only one qualitative study and one systematic review, respectively. Five themes were identified, including (1) use of contraception among women in larger bodies; (2) knowledge, attitudes towards and beliefs about contraception; (3) contraceptive (dis)satisfaction among women in larger bodies; (4) contraceptive counseling; and (5) barriers to contraception. The findings revealed that women in larger bodies may have unmet contraceptive care needs. Despite many articles addressing the need to improve contraceptive counseling for women in larger bodies (n = 26), few explored how women felt about their care (n = 2). Finally, only two articles focused on emergency contraception, indicating a need for further research.
This scoping review emphasizes the pressing need for qualitative research to explore women in larger bodies’ experiences with routine and emergency contraception, as well as receiving contraceptive counseling and care. Future research exploring the lived experiences of women in larger bodies is necessary to better characterize their contraceptive needs and identify avenues to improve patient care.