Male Partners May Be Key Influence on Birth Control Use

Young women twice as likely to use contraception if their mate strongly favors its use, study finds

FRIDAY, Sept. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Young women are more likely to use birth control if their partners are in favor of it, new study findings suggest.

In fact, women were more than twice as likely to use an effective method of birth control consistently if their male sex partner was "very" in favor of birth control, the researchers found.

The study, funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at 435 couples in Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. The women in the couples were aged 18 to 25, were not pregnant and weren't trying to get pregnant.

While the men and women in the study said they played an active role in deciding whether birth control was used, there was considerable disagreement between partners about whether they'd actually talked about birth control.

This type of contradiction is common in male/female relationships, said principal investigator Marie Harvey, a professor of public health at Oregon State University.

"To a man, having a discussion about contraception might mean that he asked if she was on the pill, and she said yes. To a woman, however, that exchange may not count as a conversation. A conversation to her might mean sitting down and having a lengthy discussion about what type of birth control to use," Harvey said in a university news release.

The findings, published recently in the journal Women's Health Issues, provide new insight into sexual behavior and the use of contraception.

"We are trying to better understand the influence of partners in the sexual dynamic," Harvey said. "Public health research in the past has largely focused on the woman alone, but we know that these kinds of decisions are not made in a vacuum and that a woman's sexual partner can be very influential. Yet, research often doesn't even address the influence of sexual partners on protective behaviors."

In addition, the researchers found that even though the female participants had said they didn't want to get pregnant, most of them were having unprotected sex. Providers need to help women "clarify their desires and make decisions about whether to use contraception or to plan for pregnancy," Harvey said.

More information

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has more about birth control.

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