Study: Fear of Side Effects Main Reason for Underuse of Birth Control

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Debunking Contraception Myths to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy
Debunking Contraception Myths to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy

(HealthDay News) — If more women had access to modern birth control methods and used them correctly, there would be 15 million fewer unwanted pregnancies in low- and middle-income nations each year, according to a study published online Feb. 3 in Human Reproduction.

Researchers looked at birth control use by women between the ages of 15 and 49, in 35 countries, between 2005 and 2012. Birth control was defined as modern or traditional. Modern methods included condoms, intrauterine devices, oral and injectable contraceptives, implants, and sterilization. Traditional methods included withdrawal and trying to time intercourse when women weren't fertile. The risk of unwanted pregnancy was 2.7 times higher among those who used traditional methods and 14.5 times higher among those who used no birth control compared to women who used modern methods.

Among the 14,893 women in the study who did not want to get pregnant but did not use any type of birth control, the main reason (37 percent) for non-use was fear of side effects and health concerns. Other reasons included opposition to birth control (22 percent), underestimating the risks of pregnancy (nearly 18 percent), cost, and not knowing how to obtain modern birth control (both 2.4 percent).

"Health workers have an important role to play in reassuring, educating, treating symptoms, and finding the methods that best suits an individual. However, frontline health workers need the skills to do this, and our experience has been that many have the same misconceptions," Howard Sobel, M.D., M.P.H., one of the study authors and regional coordinator in the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent division of the World Health Organization's Western Pacific Regional Office, said in a journal news release. "We could prevent the overwhelming majority of pregnancies if we could debunk the myths and misperceptions about modern methods and use long-term methods of contraception, such as implants and intrauterine devices."

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