Contraceptive Use Linked to Attitude

Women use less effective birth control options

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) What makes a woman more likely to use effective contraception? Scientists are still exploring all of the social, economic and cultural reasons. A recent study confirms one important link: Attitude plays a role.

Scientists from the University of California at San Francisco, found that mistrust of the government’s claim that contraceptives are safe made a woman’s current method of contraception less effective.

They also report that a woman’s attitude about contraception, pregnancy and fertility does not explain why certain races use less effective methods of birth control.

"Birth control can prevent an unplanned pregnancy."

“Women who are unsure about the safety of long-acting and hormonal contraceptives may be less likely to use them,” said lead study author Corinne Rocca, Ph.D, an epidemiologist at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California at San Francisco, in an interview.

She said that intrauterine devices and pills are the most effective birth control methods.

Rocca noted that while attitudes about contraception, pregnancy and fertility differed between black women, Latinas and white women, their attitudes did not explain the fact that black women and Latinas used less effective methods, compared to white women.

The researchers looked at 602 unmarried women between 18 and 29 years of age who participated in the 2009 National Survey of Reproductive and Contraceptive Knowledge.

The study’s participants were mainly white (61 percent), while 19 percent were black, 14 percent were Latina and the rest belonged to other racial groups. More than half of the women had a post-high school education. Interviews were conducted over the phone, and included questions on sexual activity and use of contraceptive methods, and also on their perception of the medical system.

The women were asked how much they agreed with these four statements: “The government makes certain that birth control methods are safe before they come to the market”; “The government and public health institutions use poor and minority people as guinea pigs to try out new birth control methods”; “The government is trying to limit blacks and other minority populations by encouraging use of birth control"; and “Drug companies don’t care if birth control is safe, they just want people to use it so they can make money.”

The team also looked at the women’s knowledge of birth control, their attitude toward childbearing and “fatalism” about life and pregnancy and how likely they were to have an unplanned pregnancy despite their desire to prevent pregnancy.

The doctors found that 30 percent of all participants were not currently using any birth control method.

The study reports that women, who are at greatest risk for unintended pregnancy – including women who are sexually active, not seeking pregnancy and are able to become pregnant – are using ineffective methods of birth control. Only 5 percent of these women used IUDs, while 31 percent used hormonal contraceptives, 14 percent used condoms, 5 percent used withdrawal, and 11 percent used no method at all.

White women were twice as likely as blacks and Latinas to use the pill or other hormonal birth control, and were less likely to use condoms or no method at all.

Blacks and Latinas were more likely to use less effective methods than whites, although attitudes did not explain the disparities among the races. Forty-five percent of blacks used no method and 21.4 used a condom. Among Latinas, 37.6 percent used no method while 27.9 percent used a condom.

Blacks and Latinas thought that the government encourages contraceptive use to limit minority populations, when compared to white women’s beliefs. Overall, 32 percent of all the women strongly or somewhat agreed with this statement.

Most of the women (79 percent) said that avoiding pregnancy was important. Fatalistic attitudes about pregnancy were common: 41 percent of the women strongly or somewhat agreed that pregnancy will happened when it is their time, and 54 percent thought that “life just seems to happen to them.”

The team reports that different attitudes did not explain why some races were more likely to use contraceptives.

Latinas’ use of less effective methods was partially due to lower knowledge of contraception.

Other factors could possibly contribute to lower use of the most effective birth control methods, including a lack of access to reproductive healthcare, the cost of contraception and a lack of counseling by health care providers, said Rocca.

According to Rocca, the most surprising finding was that women’s attitudes about contraception, pregnancy and fertility were generally not associated with using effective methods of contraception.

“It’s possible that factors other than attitude may be more important in explaining why black women and Latinas are less likely to use methods like the pill,” said Rocca.

This study was published online in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.  

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 3, 2012
Last Updated:
July 23, 2012