September 2012

Contraceptive features preferred by women at high risk of unintended pregnancy

Lessard LN, Karasek D, Ma S, Darney P, Deardorff J, Lahiff M, Grossman D, Foster DG. Contraceptive features preferred by women at high risk of unintended pregnancy. Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2012;44(3):194-200

CONTEXT: Available contraceptives are not meeting many women's needs, as is evident by high levels of typical-use failure, method switching and discontinuation. To improve women's satisfaction with contraceptive methods, determining what features they prefer and how these preferences are satisfied by available methods and methods under development is crucial.

METHODS: The importance of 18 contraceptive method features was rated by 574 women seeking abortions--a group at high risk of having unprotected intercourse and unintended pregnancies--at six clinics across the United States in 2010. For each available and potential method, the number of features present was assessed, and the percentage of these that were "extremely important" to women was calculated.

RESULTS:The three contraceptive features deemed extremely important by the largest proportions of women were effectiveness (84%), lack of side effects (78%) and affordability (76%). For 91% of women, no method had all of the features they thought were extremely important. The ring and the sponge had the highest percentage of features that women deemed extremely important (67% each). Some streamlined modes of access and new contraceptive technologies have the potential to satisfy women's preferences. For example, an over-the-counter pill would have 71% of extremely important features, and an over-the-counter pericoital pill, 68%; currently available prescription pills have 60%.

CONCLUSION:The contraceptive features women want are largely absent from currently available methods. Developing and promoting methods that are more aligned with women's preferences presumably could help increase satisfaction and thereby encourage consistent and effective use.