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Misconceptions in contraception: birth control awareness

03 August, 2012

International "I Plan On" survey from MSD showed gaps in women's awareness of and knowledge about the range of available birth control options

MSD announced key findings from the I Plan On international online survey of 4,199 women aged 18-35 living in nine countries . Among the women surveyed, a number of myths and misconceptions about contraception were identified.

The results of the survey also showed that many women lacked awareness about the correct usage of certain types of birth control. In addition, most of the women surveyed would have changed something about their birth control. The combination of these factors may influence a woman's ability to choose-and use-the best method of contraception for her.

In the survey, 400 women from Australia were included and the findings confirmed that there is still significant misinformation about contraception. The global survey which was presented in June, 2012 at the 12th European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC) Congress, showed that most women using contraception were using the Pill and few women were using long-term contraception.

The survey showed that although many women had discussed the birth control pill with their healthcare provider, few had discussed non-pill options. Among the women surveyed, many had discussed their lifestyles with their healthcare provider, however, only half were confident that their lifestyles had been taken into account.

Myths and misconceptions about contraception - A global snapshot

In the survey, which was conducted in nine countries worldwide, responses showed that many women - regardless of nationality or age - had misconceptions about contraception:

More than one-fourth of respondents (28%; 1,169 out of 4,199) believed that long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are permanent (i.e. non-reversible) birth control options.

Nineteen percent (19%; 812 out of 4,199) of respondents believed that long-term contraceptives all require surgical insertion into the womb.

Almost one-third of respondents (31%; 1,309 out of 4,199) believed that birth control pills have the highest rates of efficacy (i.e. are the best protection against pregnancy) among all contraceptives.

Nearly one in five women (19%; 778 out of 4,199) did not believe that they could get pregnant if they missed a birth control pill.

In addition to addressing knowledge about and awareness of contraception, the survey also sought to gain a better understanding of contraceptive choices and counseling. Of all women who participated in the survey, birth control pills were the most widely used contraceptive (44%; 1,832 out of 4,199). Only 21% of all women were using any other method (excluding condoms) (884 out of 4,199). Fewer than 10% of all women were using long-acting contraception (387 out of 4,199).

A local picture

In Australia, the survey showed that around 50% of women were not sure whether their healthcare professional (HCP) had considered lifestyle needs in their discussion about contraception while 77% of women said that they would like to change something about their birth control.

With all the public information available to women on contraceptives, their use and the options available, many Australian women still don't quite understand how contraceptives work, whether they are on the "pill" or using one of the long acting reversible contraceptive options available to them.

According to the Australian women surveyed, even though 30% said they would change having to take a contraceptive regularly, 57% of women believed that Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives should not be used if they suddenly decide to get pregnant. 30% of Australian women believe that birth control pills have the highest efficacy.

"Women, along with their healthcare providers, should take into account their lifestyles when considering available birth control options." said Dr. Diana Mansour, consultant in Community Gynaecology and Reproductive Health Care, head of Sexual Health Services, Newcastle Hospitals Community Health, Newcastle, England.

"We need to also further educate women about all of their contraception options and clear up any misconceptions so they can make informed decisions that are right for them.

"Many women surveyed reported that they wanted to focus on achieving their life goals before having children. That survey finding is indicative of how a woman's personal plan and priorities may impact her selected contraceptive method." said Dr. Fabiola Beligotti, regional director medical affairs, MSD, and lead author of the study.

"It is important that women receive accurate information about their options so, with the help of their physician, they can find the right option for their personal situation and then know how to use that method effectively."

Source: MSD

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