Women’s social networks influence IUD use

Unintended pregnancy remains a persistent public health issue in the United States. Increased use of effective contraceptives, like intrauterine devices (IUDs), has the potential to reduce unintended pregnancies. Although IUDs are highly effective and rapidly reversible, less than 4% of U.S. women ages 15-44 used this method between 2006 and 2010. Although popular media has described "IUD evangelism" among women using this method, little is known about how women's social networks may influence contraceptive attitudes.

To fill this gap, researchers with the UCSF Bixby Center investigated how information about contraceptives, particularly IUDs, is spread through social networks and how this information influences women's attitudes. They found that:

  • Women reported communication with female friends and family members was a valued means of obtaining information about contraceptives.
  • Negative information—which was often factually incorrect—was more common and more memorable than positive information in communication with friends and family.
  • Social contacts and TV commercials were the main sources of negative information about IUDs; clinicians were the main source of positive information.
  • Most current or former IUD users had recommended the method to friends or family. Their most common messages were the method's high efficacy and the advantage of not having to remember to take a pill every day.

Women frequently discuss contraception in social settings, and these conversations may influence decisions regarding IUDs. Interventions supporting and encouraging positive and accurate social communication about IUDs may be a promising approach to increase interest in this highly effective method.