Volume 44, Issue 3

Contraceptive Features Preferred by Women At High Risk of Unintended Pregnancy


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.


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.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2012, 44(3):194–200, doi:10.1363/4419412

Authors' Affiliations

Lauren N. Lessard is a doctoral candidate, Department of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles. Deborah Karasek is research analyst, Sandi Ma is research associate, and Philip Darney is professor—all at the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco. Julianna Deardorff is assistant professor, and Maureen Lahiff is academic coordinator and lecturer, Department of Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley. Dan Grossman is clinical instructor, and Diana Greene Foster is associate professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of California, San Francisco.

The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

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