Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Are Adult Women Forgoing Birth Control?

After reading the More Women Opting Against Birth Control, Study Finds article you might be wondering: why are more adult women forgoing birth control?

Short answer: You're asking the wrong question. The available data doesn't tell us if more women are forgoing birth control.

Long answer:

Wonder no more! I, and only I can reveal the answer, and only you, the special, chosen ones, can understand. But wait! There's more. Not only will I answer your question, but I will also reveal the method I used to find the answer, something the establishment does not want you to know. For the incredibly low price of $19.95, you too can have access to this unique, revolutionary, and amazing alternative method I developed. And that's not all. Everything is 100% guaranteed. After all, everything I reveal to you is based on what I believe and, as we all know, medicine's foundation is belief, not fact. Ready? Here we go:

Women aren't using birth control because they don't have uteri!!!!! And my method--googling. Now, wasn't that worth the money you paid!

Fabulous offer aside, what's with my wild speculation on why women aren't using birth control? Am I having a temporary brake from reality? Um, no. [I am, however, a bit miffed at the relentless push to substitute personal belief for medical fact--emergency contraception and mifepristone are *not* controversial drugs, and they are not dangerous (the death rate from childbirth is ~12 times higher than the rate from using mifepristone), abortion is not a political/legal/cultural strategy tool to be magnanimously allowed to remain legal at least for now, and/or to be used to bridge the gap between the intellectual left and the religious right; it's a health matter used to reduce a woman's risk of death and injury. Hence my mock offer.]

When I speculate about women's use of bc I'm actually following the lead of the study's researchers. I didn't have time to locate the raw data, but I found the next best thing, the Fact Sheet (pdf) (emphasis mine):

The number of women who were at risk of pregnancy but not using a method appears to have increased. (page 7 of report): 5.4% in 1995, 7.4% in 2002. 3.13 million in 1995, and 4.56 million in 2002. If the change is real, it could result in more unintended pregnancies; some of these women may believe they are infertile, or they may be ambivalent about getting pregnant. This should be studied further.

If the change is real means we first need to figure out if fewer women 20 and older are using bc. Then, if we find that this is, indeed, true, we can write articles with catchy titles about it and, if we must, we can speculate as to the reasons behind the decreased use. Even better, once an actual change is found we can study the reasons for it and provide concrete, useful information to the public. Or not.

Speaking of useful information, here are some interesting data from the Fact Sheet [I rearranged the order a bit]:

  • This report is based on the sample of 7,643 women. Response rate for women in the 2002 NSFG was 80 percent.

  • There are 61.6 million women of reproductive age (15-44). Of these, more than 34 million (56 percent) visited private doctors for family planning or related medical services in 2002. About 13.5 million (22 percent) used publicly-funded clinics.

  • Contraceptive use is virtually universal in the U.S. 98 percent of women of reproductive age have used one or more methods, and large majorities have used the pill and the (male) condom.

  • There is little evidence in the report that adults as a whole are using more effective methods in 2002 than they were in 1995. [Could it because of this:] Some methods that are used by less than 3 percent of women:

    -- Implant, 1-month shot, patch, IUD, [the implant and the IUD are among the MOST effective methods of birth control available]

    -- diaphragm, calendar rhythm, temperature rhythm,

    -- Today Sponge, Cervical cap, female condom.

  • Pill use is strongly associated with education. Condom use is associated with the woman’s education.

  • Bottom line: Having complete and correct information is essential for your reproductive health. So is resisting the ongoing move to marginalize, or outright exclude you from medical decisions that affect you. [Knowing how to decode health news reports also helps.]


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