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Provider Perceptions Conflict Patient Preference in Contraception Choices

While most patients prefer hormone-free contraception, a majority of providers suggested hormonal options, a new survey found, uncovering the gap between patient preference and provider perceptions.

Patient preferences are at odds with provider perception when it comes to contraceptive choices, identified a new survey, suggesting that healthcare providers might need to amplify their patient-provider communication on these reproductive healthcare topics.

The survey of 5,000 women between 18 and 55 years old aimed to evaluate patient knowledge and understanding of birth control amidst the backdrop of restricted reproductive care options.

The survey revealed disparities between healthcare providers’ perceptions of their patient’s birth control preferences and the factors influencing their choices.

Nearly half of the surveyed patients were concerned about unwanted pregnancy, and of those, 40 percent were not utilizing any form of birth control.

And despite the documented effectiveness rates of various contraceptives, an additional 35 percent expressed a lack of trust in their contraceptive method. This indicates a lack of health literacy and patient education regarding birth control.

What’s more, less than half of the respondents reported engaging in patient-provider conversations regarding contraceptives during their annual medical check-ups. In contrast, an overwhelming majority of healthcare providers stated the opposite.

The findings revealed that 74 percent claimed to engage in such discussions with their patients.

Surprisingly, almost 25 percent of respondents aged 46 to 55 revealed that they had never discussed birth control methods with a healthcare professional. This is in contrast to only 10 percent of younger women.

While 60 percent of respondents preferred hormone-free birth control, 59 percent of healthcare providers recommended hormonal contraception when patients didn't mention a specific preference.

Furthermore, the survey found that 20 percent of individuals using IUDs had not discussed other birth control methods with their healthcare providers.

When choosing a contraceptive, 91 percent of patients prioritize effectiveness as the most critical factor. Yet, only 26 percent of patients understand that intrauterine devices (IUDs) are the most effective contraception.

This is a stark disparity to surveyed healthcare providers’ understanding, as 64 percent of healthcare providers believe that their patients comprehend that, aside from abstinence, sterilization, and vasectomy.

Interestingly, while nearly half of women preferred a regular menstrual cycle or period, only 37 percent desired no period. In contrast, a majority of healthcare providers (51 percent) believed their patients would prefer to have no period.

Regarding the Supreme Court decision on reproductive healthcare, two-thirds of respondents had not changed their contraceptive method in response. However, a quarter of respondents reported having already made or planned to make changes.

For healthcare providers, almost one in three (27 percent) stated that the decision had influenced how they counsel patients about birth control options. Many of them have begun or will begin advising more patients to consider long-lasting birth control methods.

“We have to encourage better conversation between women of reproductive age and their healthcare professionals to ensure that women are being informed of their birth control options," said Beth Battaglino, RN-C, CEO of HealthyWomen, which commissioned the survey.

"The survey calls for us to re-visit — and perhaps even re-invent — patient-HCP interactions to ensure contraceptive solutions are tailored to meet each individual's needs; further, we must continue to call for development of even more innovative contraception options that meet the quickly changing needs of individuals of childbearing age," continued Battaglino.

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