PUBLISHED: 11:59 EST, 1 May 2012 | UPDATED: 11:59 EST, 1 May 2012
Women who take the contraceptive pill or use condoms are doing so with the misconception of how effectively they prevent pregnancy, a new study has revealed.
Researchers in St. Louis, Missouri interviewed 4,144 women about birth control methods and found that 45 per cent relied too heavily on their contraceptives to do the job without fail.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, led by Dr. David L. Eisenberg, reported their results in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The findings of the survey showed a considerable lack of education when it came to understanding the difference between ideal success and failure rates, versus the rates typical as reported in reality.
When taken in a manner not consistent with the exact instructions on the leaflet, nine per cent of women who take the Pill, or one in ten, are likely to get pregnant over the course of a year.
This kind of misunderstanding when it comes to administration of a contraceptive like the Pill, experts believe, may very well be the reason that half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned.
When the study participants were informed about other contraceptive methods such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and contraceptive implants and their effectiveness, 71 per cent switched to one of these options.
Reasons why women might choose the Pill or condoms over an IUD or implant range from doctors’ recommendations and ignorance of the details, to cost.
But if that were to change, Dr Eisenberg told Reuters, more unwanted pregnancies could be avoided.
With the insertion of a copper or hormone emitting IUD or contraceptive implant, on the other hand, failure rates are reduced to between 0.2 and 0.8 per cent.
The hormonal IUD sold by Mirena prevents pregnancy for up to five years while it’s copper counterpart, ParaGuard can provide protection for up to ten.
The implant, Implanon works for three years.
Not only are they more reliable in their prevention, but advocates also encourage their use as a way to avoid the often crippling side effects of the Pill that can cause mood swings and depression as hormones affect the brain.
With the IUD and implant, hormonal activity is focused in the uterus.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believes that women should consider the IUD or implant as ‘first-line’ choices because of their effectiveness and safety.
Yet still not enough information is shared about these methods and with cost as intimidating as it is, women are frequently encouraged by their physicians to just use the Pill as they always have and only five to six per cent have explored beyond this advice.
Even if education were to improve about the alternatives available, Mirena, ParaGard and Implanon still carry a hefty price tag in the hundreds excluding doctor’s fees.
For women accustomed to spending $10 to $50 per month on the Pill, these alternatives are simply unaffordable, unless they are covered by health insurance.
Dr. Nancy Stanwood told Buzzfeed: ‘These methods have higher upfront costs, so many women are just priced out of them. So they use a method that isn’t as great as preventing pregnancy, that doesn’t fit their lives as well, and that isn’t fair.
‘Women shouldn’t have to look in their pocket book to figure out what kind of contraception they should use.’