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The Birth Control Project: A longitudinal study of women's contraception use and sexual health

Nicole Smith, PhD, MPH, Princeton University

Project abstract

An irony of contraception is that once a woman begins using a method for non-procreative sex she may be less inclined to desire, initiate, engage in or feel pleasure during sexual activity. The Birth Control Project is a longitudinal study of women's contraception use and related sexual health outcomes.

Participants are actively being recruited in family planning clinics and student health centers in four states across the U.S. including Montana, Indiana, New Jersey and Utah. Women between the ages of 14 and 45 who are initiating a new contraceptive method and who have not used a hormonal method for at least two months are eligible to enroll. Women using non-hormonal methods exclusively are being recruited for comparison purposes. Follow-up surveys are emailed after 3, 6, and 9 months to assess: 1) rates of method continuation; 2) reasons for switching or discontinuing contraception; 3) experiences with a wide range of side effects; 4) perceived changes in sexual function and 5) sexual behaviors and relationship dynamics over time. Participants receive $10 for each survey completed.

To date, over 245 women are participating in the study. Initial findings indicate that approximately 12% of women have switched methods and an additional 12% have discontinued the use of contraception within the nine-month timeframe.

Findings from this study will provide much-needed context and a better understanding of how reproductive behaviors and contraception use fit into a larger sexual health framework.

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