Health & Fitness

Contraceptives that are long-term and reversible are in demand

Health

Contraceptives such as IUDs and implants are finally being embraced by U.S. women after many years of doubts and controversy.

In a new study, researchers at the Guttmacher Institute looked at data from the National Survey of Family Growth from 2006 and 2008 and found many more women are using IUDs such as the Copper T or the levonorgestrel intrauterine system (known as Mirena). Similarly, implants inserted under the skin in the arm, such as Implanon, are becoming more popular. The ratio of women using these long-lasting, reversible methods increased from 2.4 percent in 2002 to 5.6 percent in 2006 to 2008.

The highest prevalence in use of these methods is among Latino women, according to the study. But the biggest gains in recent years were among women younger than 24 and older than 35 and women in higher income groups. That shows the methods may fit a broader spectrum of consumers rather than niche groups.

Public health experts have promoted these contraceptives because they are highly effective and women can forget about them once they're inserted. IUDs have a failure rate of less than 1percent. However, IUDs were shunned for many years among women because of problems with previous product designs. Implants too have been plagued by design flaws and problems with insertion or removal. But implants have undergone significant changes to improve safety and convenience.

The study found that women who have already given birth were more likely to use these methods. But there's an uptick of interest in the methods among women who want children someday but seek a lengthy period of contraceptive protection at the current time, said the authors of the study.

"With childbearing occurring at later ages, the fertile period before childbearing can be as long as that after childbearing," wrote the authors. "...The potential for long-acting reversible contraceptive methods to decrease unintended pregnancy rates and subsequent abortions is gaining much-needed attention."

Half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended, and about half of these are attributed to non-use of contraceptives. Roughly 43 percent more unintended pregnancies are attributed to improper or inconsistent contraceptive use.

The study was published in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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