Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Join me in a conversation about hormonal contraceptives! Eat free food!

Women in the United States use hormonal contraceptives more than any other nation in the world. Doctors and patients in other countries report a hesitance to prescribe hormonal contraceptives for off-label use (to improve the skin, or regulate the cycle) where most pharmaceutical advertisements in the US celebrate exactly those uses.

Why do women in the US use hormonal contraceptives more frequently? How did you and your doctor decide that this prescription was right for you?

If you live in or near Champaign-Urbana, we would like to have you come participate in a focus group on exactly this topic! We would like to validate a survey that will be used online, but also get freeform responses from real women about their real experiences.

Please email us to participate! We can answer any questions you may have. You must be:
  • Over eighteen years old
  • Female
  • Have been prescribed hormonal contraceptives at least once
Participation involves:
  • Filling out an eligibility survey and indicating your time preference for the focus group (5 minutes)
  • Attending a focus group, where you will fill out a survey and discuss your broader experiences with hormonal contraceptives (90 minutes)
We will provide you with some tasty snacks during the focus group. So far we have found that participants have really loved being a part of this, because it’s given them a chance to reflect on their own contraceptive choices. Join us! Email us today! You will be helping us put together a comprehensive research program to understand why US women take hormonal contraceptives far more than women from other developed countries.

IRB approval for this message: #12269, amendment 02/22/2010


  1. I can make a guess at why the advertising in the US focuses on those issues: because of fundamentalist Christians. Advertising something as being for contraception is more likely to annoy people than advertising it as being good for other purposes, even if it's well known that it can be used for contraception. The Pill was first marketed/licensed as a way to regulate periods, not as contraception, but that aspect became common knowledge pretty quickly!

  2. Liz, I do think religion may have something to do with this, fundamentalist or otherwise, with at least some women. I also suspect that more generally as a culture we're ok with women taking pills to improve their mood or appearance but not to control their reproduction.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. I agree with Liz that religious/cultural anxieties about women, sex and reproduction have a lot to do with the prominence given to off-label use of birth control pills in the U.S.

    I would add to her comment (and yours) that lots of women start taking the Pill in their teens, which is when most people start to be sexually active but also a time when sexual activity is thought to be Wrong. So, you might need the Pill for contraceptive reasons, but to avoid declaring yourself to be sexually active when there's a lot of shaming still directed at sexually active teenage girls, you might just say you use it to improve your skin, or regulate your period, or whatever.

    That's why I think the off-label uses get so much more endorsement here --- I've got no idea why we use the pill in general more than women elsewhere! Do women in other countries use other methods of contraception more, like IUDs?

  4. Hi Linday - thanks for your comment. Women in other countries do tend to use other methods of contraception, and don't use it for off-label use as much. And yes, I do think you're very right about shame around sex and how that might lead to women asking for it for non-contraceptive use. That is exactly why I'm interested in examining the doctor-patient relationship a bit more: there are cultural issues, but I wonder if there are times doctors assume women actually want contraception when they are saying they have skin issues, etc, because of it. It's a very tricky thing, because of course the doctor wants the patient to get the right care, but we don't seem to live in a society where everyone feels like they can be honest with each other in the examining room.