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Long-Acting Contraceptives Best by Far

from Science News

Long-acting birth control devices are nearly 22 times as reliable as contraceptive pills or other short-acting approaches that need close monitoring, a new study shows. Since about half of all unplanned pregnancies are traceable to failed birth control, switching to a long-term, reversible contraceptive could prevent many accidental pregnancies, researchers say.

"As a doctor, if you had a drug for cancer or hypertension that was 20-fold better than the next drug, you would never write [a prescription] for that other drug," says study coauthor Jeffrey Peipert, a physician and epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis. "We hope that clinicians will re-think what is standard practice--that a young woman comes in and gets pills or condom counseling. We have methods that are much, much better."

The findings also hint that if cost were not an issue, most women given a choice of common hormone-based contraceptives would prefer the long-acting devices. About 77 percent of the women who volunteered for the new study chose an intrauterine device (IUD) or a small implant placed under the skin while only 20 percent requested shorter-acting options such as the pill, a vaginal ring or a skin patch. Fewer still opted for hormone injections called Depo-Provera. All costs were covered by the study. The findings appear in the May 24 New England Journal of Medicine.


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