The Impact of Programs to Increase Contraceptive Use Among Adult Women: A Review of Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Studies



CONTEXT: Because rates of unintended pregnancy, abortion and unintended birth are very high among adult women in the United States, it is important to identify interventions that can increase contraceptive use in this population.

METHODS: PubMed, PsycINFO and POPLINE were searched for experimental or quasi-experimental studies published between 1990 and 2005 that evaluated policies or programs designed to increase contraceptive use or reduce pregnancy among adult women in the United States. In addition, relevant journals were searched, experts were asked to provide further citations and several subsequently published articles were included.

RESULTS: Only 11 studies that assessed programs, and none that assessed policies, were found. The evaluated interventions offered pregnancy and STD prevention counseling (one study); provided contraceptives in settings other than family planning clinics (two studies); had women initiate contraceptive use during the medical visit (two studies); provided advance supplies of emergency contraception (four studies); or implemented systems to remind injectable contraceptive users about their next injection (two studies). The interventions generally had positive, albeit short-term, effects on contraceptive use; none reduced pregnancy rates. Programs that gave women a contraceptive during the visit were the most effective at increasing method use. Advance provision of emergency contraception increased the likelihood of its use and did not affect regular contraceptive use.

CONCLUSIONS: Very few studies have evaluated interventions to increase contraceptive use among adult women. A research plan that rigorously assesses the impact of different approaches to increasing contraceptive use among adult women should be an integral part of any long-term effort to prevent unintended pregnancy in the United States.