Ounce of training worth a pound of pregnancy prevention

Planned Parenthood, whose Ann Arbor location is shown on September 7, 2014, operates 820 health centers in the U.S.

Story highlights

  • A program that trains providers at Planned Parenthood clinics about IUDs and similar contraceptives led to greater use of these methods
  • Women who visited clinics where providers had been trained about long-acting reversible contraceptives were half as likely to have an unintended pregnancy
  • Long-acting reversible contraceptives have failure rates of less than 1%, whereas birth control pills and condoms have failure rates of 9% and 18%, respectively

(CNN)Women are more likely to choose to get IUDs and other highly effective contraceptives at family planning clinics if the clinicians there have been educated about these methods, according to a new study.

The increase in the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives -- IUDs (intrauterine devices) and single-rod hormonal implants in the arm -- were associated with nearly 50% fewer unintended pregnancies among the women in the study.
    Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are considered the most effective method of contraception, associated with failure rates of less than 1%, whereas birth control pills and condoms have failure rates of 9% and 18%, respectively. However, LARCs are often not available or discussed in clinics, said Cynthia C. Harper, professor at obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
    Harper and her colleagues tested whether educating providers about LARCs, how to insert them and how to talk with women about them would lead to increased use of this method and decreased rates of unintended pregnancies among their patients. The researchers gave half-day training sessions to providers at 20 Planned Parenthood clinics in 15 states across the U.S.; they compared these intervention sites to another 20 control clinics where the staff did not receive training.
    The researchers looked at the effects in 1,500 women ages 18 to 25. The women were either visiting the clinics for help with family planning or there to get an abortion, and were thus at high risk of having an unintended pregnancy.
    "Our main impetus for doing this study was to try to address the very high rates of unintended pregnancies in the U.S., over half of all pregnancies, and that's been the case for decades with no progress," said Harper who is the lead author of the study, published this week in the Lancet journal.
    Twenty-eight percent of the women in the study who visited an intervention clinic decided to get an IUD or implant compared with 17% of the women who visited a control clinic. "I was happy with that [increase]", Harper said. "I think a lot of women were learning about these methods for the first time [and] if they hear about them from a few different places and people, they might become more familiar with them and want to use them."
    Along with the increase in use of LARCs, the researchers saw a decrease of nearly 50% in the number of unintended pregnancies in the following year among the women who visited an intervention clinic for family planning compared with