Article Summary: Understanding Contraceptive Behaviour to Prevent Unintended Alcohol-Exposed Pregnancies

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Sexually active individuals of reproductive age are particularly at risk of unplanned alcohol-exposed pregnancies if they frequently consume alcohol and ineffectively use and/or fail to use contraception. The authors of this study examined contraceptive use in university students in Australia who consume alcohol. The authors also wanted to determine students’ knowledge of contraception, reproduction, risk of alcohol use during pregnancy, and attitude toward contraception.

 Main Findings

  • In a previous study, 60.6% of women were shown to consume alcohol between contraception and finding out they are pregnant, and binge-drinking behaviour was more common than low-levels of drinking
  • The authors of this study found that most women used contraceptives in the previous month, with the most common forms of contraception being male condoms (60%) and oral contraceptive pill (46%), known as short-acting reversible contraceptives (SARCs)
    • Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), such as IUDs and injections can reduce rates of unintended pregnancies, yet are used by only 23.5% of women in this study
  • Those who said they ‘Never/Sometimes’ used contraception were generally older and had less sex than those who commonly used contraception
  • Women who ‘Never/Sometimes’ use contraception had more reproductive knowledge than those who use contraception more often
  • Individuals who used contraception more often had more positive attitudes toward contraception than those who used it less often

Take-home message
While the authors of this study found that attitudes toward contraceptives can impact behaviour, more research is needed to investigate how to change people’s attitudes. Most women who use contraceptives use SARCs, but LARCs should be the main target for intervention and research, as a means of reducing unintended pregnancies, while ensuring that intervention programs are focusing on the needs and priorities of the individual woman. Because university students are at a particularly high risk of unintended alcohol-exposed pregnancies, more research is needed to look at what factors impact contraceptive choices among this population, and potential interventions that could reduce unintended alcohol-exposed pregnancies.

Authors: Natasha Reid, Chun-Chi Chen, Anne Bernard, Frances O’Callaghan

Journal: Journal of Alcohol Syndrome Risk & Prevention

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