Effectiveness of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception
While women in the United States have made great strides toward equality over the last century, significant challenges remain. Women still are paid far below what men earn for comparable work, they are underrepresented in government, and their right to reproductive health, including contraception, continues to be hotly debated in both politics and law. This is particularly ironic given that the U.S. rate of teen pregnancy continues to be significantly higher than those of other developed countries.
In August 2012, a provision of the Affordable Care Act took effect that requires new health insurance policies for women to provide contraception without co-pays or deductibles. A 2012 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, “Effectiveness of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception,” looked at the failure rates of long-lasting methods of birth control. The study was based on data from more than 7,000 women who were provided with no-cost reversible contraception of their choice – IUD, implant, DMPA injection, pills, patch or ring — for up to three years. Each participant provided demographic information and was interviewed about her reproductive history at three and six months and every six months thereafter for the duration of the study.
The key findings include:
- During the study period, 334 unintended pregnancies occurred. “Failure rates in the group of participants who used the pills, patch or ring were 4.8%, 7.8%, and 9.4% in years 1, 2, and 3, respectively; the corresponding rates in the group using IUDs or implants were 0.3%, 0.6%, and 0.9%.” IUDs and implants were thus 10 to 16 times as effective as the other long-term contraceptive options.
- “Long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, including intrauterine devices (IUDs) and subdermal implants, are not user-dependent and have very low failure rates (less than 1%), which rival those with sterilization. Despite their proven safety … IUDs are used by only 5.5% of women who use contraception in the United States.”
- Women using long-acting reversible contraception methods were least likely to be uninsured, with only 40% having no health care coverage compared to 42% of the users of pills, patches or rings and 58% for those who chose injections.
- Of the participants who experienced an unintended pregnancy, nearly 50% were uninsured, compared to only 40% of who didn’t experience a birth-control failure.
The researchers concluded, “Long-acting reversible methods of contraception (IUDs or implants) were more effective in preventing unintended pregnancy than contraceptive pills, patch or ring and worked well regardless of age.”
Tags: gender, children
Read the issue-related New York Times article titled "Americans Get Reacquainted With IUDs."
- What key insights from the journal article should reporters be aware of as they cover these issues?
Read the full study titled “Effectiveness of Long-Acting Reversible Contraception.”
- What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
- Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
- What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
- How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.
Newswriting and digital reporting assignments
- Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
- Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
- Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
- Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.
Class discussion questions
- What is the study’s most important finding?
- Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
- What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
- How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
- How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
- What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?