Preventing pregnancy, protecting health: a new look at birth control choices in the United States.

Harlap S; Kost K; Forrest JD
New York, New York, Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1991. 128 p.

This publication seeks to help couples in choosing a contraceptive by providing information on the health consequences of the birth control methods used in the US today. The 1st section discusses sexual activity, contraceptive use, and unintended pregnancies; the 2nd section examines the risk of STDs, genital infections, ectopic pregnancies, and tubal infertility; the 3rd section addresses the health effects of and failure rates of different contraceptive methods. The study finds that the most commonly used methods of contraception are oral contraceptives and sterilization. While 9 out of 10 women at risk of an unintended pregnancy use some form of contraception, more than 1.2 of all the pregnancies that occur each year are unintended. And the 10% of sexually active women which does not practice contraception accounts for more than 1/2 of these unintended pregnancies. The study also finds that annually 12 million Americans contract an STD, with younger women being those at greater risk. Furthermore, the study reports that 2/5 of all cancers among women occur in the reproductive system, breast cancer being the most common. And while oral contraceptives greatly reduce the incidence of ovarian cancer, studies have also shown that long-term pill users under 35 years of age have a higher rate of breast cancer than non-users. The article also discusses the dangers of cardiovascular disease and other complications requiring hospitalization. But the publication concludes by saying that contraceptive use save lives. While the choice of method depends on the individual's particular needs and situation, any contraceptive method improves a woman's chances of having a healthy life.

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