Dartmouth Researchers Create Tools Designed to Make Birth Control Decisions Easier for Women

At the present time, slightly more than half (51%) of pregnancies in the United States are unintended. While that statistic may be startling, what may be more surprising is that studies show that 41% of these unintended pregnancies are attributable to inconsistent contraceptive use.

“As World Contraception Day 2015 approaches (on Sept. 26), we felt now is the perfect time to continue the discussion on how we can best support women and their health care providers to compare birth control methods and choose a method based on what matters most to the woman,” said lead researcher Dr. Rachel Thompson, an assistant professor at The Dartmouth Institute.

In 2014, Thompson’s team was awarded $2.1 million by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), to conduct research on how best to improve decision-making about contraceptive methods and also to examine the downstream effects on women’s contraceptive satisfaction and their experience of unintended pregnancy.
Prior to receiving the funding, the researchers surveyed women and health care providers and found some notable discrepancies between what the groups viewed as important when choosing a method of contraception. They also found that only 24% of women were given information and asked about their preferences when a contraceptive decision was last made in a health care visit. In order to help address these problems, Thompson and the team of researchers, clinicians, and patients are developing tools designed to improve patient-provider conversations about birth control.

One of these tools is a brief video that women can watch in the waiting room, which highlights three questions patients can ask to learn more about their birth control options. The group also is creating a set of paper decision support tools to help providers work with women to compare birth control options and identify the method that is right for each woman.

The tools are being developed with input from patients, clinicians, and other stakeholders and will undergo evaluation in a randomized trial beginning in 2016. The Dartmouth team is currently recruiting health care clinics to participate in the trial. 

“Our patient and clinician partners bring unique experience and expertise to the project. They ensure that the tools being developed reflect real-world needs,” Thompson said.
Pearl Brady, a patient partner, says she chose to participate in the project because she thinks finding the right birth control method is imperative to complete, overall health care.

“For me, the first type of birth control I tried was not at all well-suited for me,” Brady said. “After a long conversation with my doctor, we decided together that extended cycle birth control was the right choice for me. Three years later, I couldn’t be happier with my choice. That is the goal of Right For Me: Birth control decisions made easier, to help empower patients to share the decision-making process and work with their providers to achieve the best possible care together.”

*The views and findings presented in this media release are solely the responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), its Board of Governors or Methodology Committee. This work was supported through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Program Award (1403-12221).

For more information about World Contraception Day:  http://www.your-life.com/en/for-doctors-parents-etc/about-wcd/.

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