The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) released findings from a survey of over 1,200 women ages 18 to 45, which show that women don’t feel confident in their own knowledge about contraception and, in fact, don’t know a lot about the methods that are available. These gaps in knowledge and misperceptions can be a problem when women are trying to choose the best methods for them.
The survey found that more women consider themselves knowledgeable about abstinence (70 percent) than any other method, including condoms (55 percent), the pill (49 percent), and withdrawal (43 percent). Women were even less knowledgeable about long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (LARCs), with only 21 percent of women saying they were very knowledgeable about intrauterine devices (IUDs) and only 17 percent saying they were very knowledgeable about contraceptive implants. The survey found that gaps in knowledge were particularly noticeable around contraceptive efficacy, with 57 percent of women incorrectly ranking the pill as the most effective form of birth control and 43 percent incorrectly ranking condoms as the most effective. (In truth, tubal ligation, vasectomy, IUDs, and contraceptive implants are all more effective at preventing pregnancy than the pill or condoms.)
We often think of health-care providers as a likely source of information about contraception, but the survey found that many women were not getting the information they needed from their providers. For example, though 64 percent of women said that their health-care provider presented them with multiple birth control options, one in 10 women said they felt pressured by their provider to choose one method over another. In addition, one in 10 women said they felt their health-care provider made assumptions about them that led to him/her recommending one method over another. Providers, it seems, are also missing opportunities to educate women about preferred methods—40 percent of women said they did not receive in-depth information from their health-care provider about how to use the birth control method they were prescribed. And, one in 10 women said they had questions they didn’t feel they could ask their health-care provider.
ACNM President Ginger Breedlove said in a press release, “As health care providers, we have a critical role to play in discussing all forms of birth control options and services by providing attentive and engaging patient-provider discussions so women can make optimal choices around contraception and family planning, and avoid unintended pregnancies.” She added, “If we can create an environment of healthy dialogue and shared decision-making, we can help change perceptions so women make educated choices that are best suited to their needs.”