Condom Use Drops When Young Women Use Hormonal Contraceptives

The use of condoms together with other forms of contraception (dual-method use) reduces the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Researchers conducted a prospective year-long study of 1,194 sexually active women aged 15–24 years who were clients at Planned Parenthood clinics and who were beginning contraceptive pills, patches, injections, or vaginal rings and not planning pregnancy within the year. They collected data on the participants’ beliefs about condom use, and knowledge of their partners’ beliefs about condom use.

At baseline, 36 percent of the subjects used condoms consistently, but condom use decreased by 27 percent three months later. Some women stopped using hormonal contraception, and more than half of the women did not return to condom use after they stopped other forms of contraception. Rachel Goldstein, MD, of Stanford University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, noted that the single largest predictor of using condoms and other contraception is the attitude of the partner toward condoms. Women whose partners thought condoms were very important and those who did not know how their partner felt about condom use were more likely to continue the dual methods than those whose partners thought condoms were not important.

Goldstein suggests that it may be more useful to advise young women to use longer-acting reversible contraceptives, including IUDs or implants, and about the importance of condoms to prevent STIs as lapses in hormonal contraceptives may lead to unplanned pregnancy. The study concluded that more counseling and greater attention needed to be given to method continuation and contingency planning and the role of the partner in family planning.
The study titled, “With Pills, Patches, Rings, and Shots: Who Still Uses Condoms? A Longitudinal Cohort Study,” was published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.08.001