Better birth control counseling and education reduces unintended pregnancies

Better counseling about women’s birth control options can dramatically reduce unintended pregnancies, according to new research from the University of California, San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global and Reproductive Health. The study, published today in The Lancet, shows that health care providers can play a critical role in supporting women’s contraceptive decision-making and preventing unintended pregnancies.

Bixby Center researchers conducted a randomized trial with Planned Parenthood Federation of America at 40 health centers nationwide to evaluate an accredited training curriculum for health care providers. Through a half-day session for all clinic staff, the curriculum provided the most up-to-date information on intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, which are far more effective than the pill or condoms at preventing pregnancy.

The training resulted in a striking reduction in the number of unintended pregnancies among family planning clients by almost half. It also dramatically increased providers’ counseling and women’s awareness of IUDs and implants. However, women receiving contraception post-abortion did not benefit from the intervention, as less than half who chose IUDs and implants at the time of an abortion actually obtained them. Researchers noted that there are many cost barriers to contraceptives at the time of abortion in the U.S.

The study was conducted by the UCSF Bixby Center's Beyond the Pill Program in partnership with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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