Being Choosy with Birth Control

Hormonal birth control methods attract usage for different reasons

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Women can choose from a variety of birth control methods, such as the pill, the ring and the patch. The differences between these methods may influence a woman's choice of birth control.

When it comes to hormonal birth control methods, women were more likely to choose ones that are easy to use and convenient, according to a recently published study.

What influences a woman's decision in choosing birth control could help healthcare professionals make more informed recommendations based on the needs of each patient, researchers said.

"Follow the birth control instructions as stated."

The pill, ring and patch contain manmade forms of hormones normally found in women. These hormonal birth control methods alter how the ovaries release eggs or cause changes to the uterus which prevent pregnancy.

Researchers led by Christian Egarter, from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, investigated how women decided on which hormonal birth control method to use.

The pill is taken orally once a day. The patch and the ring are applied to the skin and inside the vagina, respectively. The two are changed out every three weeks.

Hormonal birth control does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but is more effective at preventing unwanted births than non-hormonal methods.

The study surveyed more than 18,700 women from 11 countries across Europe between April 2009 and October 2010 on their preferred contraceptive method and why they chose it.

The participants, who averaged about 26 years of age, shared their views on the birth control pill, ring and patch before and after learning about the different hormonal methods.

Before counseling, about 42 percent of women were most likely to use combined oral contraceptives (COCs), 25 percent used condoms and 10 percent used no method.

The counseling consisted of a leaflet describing how to use the medicine. 

Researchers looked at the results by each country. They found that women based their selection on whether the method was easy to use, convenient and allowed regular menstrual bleeding. 

Women chose the patch or ring because they did not have to administer those methods daily.

The reasons for not choosing the pill included having to use it daily and the possibility of forgetting to take it.

Women who did not choose the patch felt it could be clearly seen or that it could fall off.

Women who felt more positive about a particular method were more likely to select that method.

"Knowledge of contraceptive methods obtained as a result of counseling appeared to be a major relevant factor," researchers wrote in their report. 

"Women’s perceptions varied for each method, yet women who did not select a specified method were more likely to answer ‘do not know’ to a given statement than women who selected a particular method. If a woman is less knowledgeable about a method, her [doctor] can help her become better informed."

Even after counseling, researchers found that many women still associated the pill with forgetfulness and did not know attributes of the patch or ring.

Researchers noted that they only studied women who were considering a combined hormonal method and excluded those who were not.

In addition, researchers did not look at how well participants followed instructions for their birth control, how satisfied they felt with the method and how often the women discontinued use of the product.

The study was published February 28 in BMC Women's Health. Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) funded the study. Two of the authors are employees at MSD and may potentially hold stock options at the company. Other authors received consulting fees, lecture payments and honoraria from MSD, Pfizer and Sanova.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 4, 2013
Last Updated:
March 9, 2013