‘Natural’ contraceptive methods on the rise in Australia
Although most people in Australia use a method of contraception to prevent pregnancy, many use less effective contraceptive methods and few use long-acting reversible methods such as IUDs and implants.
A recent study by Monash University found that around one in seven sexually-active Australians use no contraception, and a further one in seven (15 per cent) use ‘natural’ contraceptive methods, such as withdrawal or fertility-awareness-based methods. This is a considerable increase from previous studies which have indicated that less than seven per cent of people use these methods.
Over 1,500 Australian women and men of reproductive age took part in the survey conducted by Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.
It is interesting to note that the increase in use of these ‘natural’ contraceptive methods has coincided with the introduction of the smartphone, and subsequent fertility tracking smartphone applications such as Clue® and Kindara®, which aim to increase women’s fertility awareness and track when they are most fertile. Social commentators have also suggested that younger women and men constitute “the pull-out generation” who do not want to use hormonal methods of contraception despite their effectiveness.
The study also found that the use of the most effective methods of contraception such as long-active reversible contraception, or LARC, which includes IUDs such as Mirena or contraceptive implants such as Implanon, was quite low. This is despite these contraceptives being some of the most effective and affordable methods available, very safe, and with few side effects, co-author from Monash University Dr Sara Holton said.
“It appears that many misconceptions about these methods exist, and it’s important that people are aware of these methods, and that they are suitable for most women to use,” Dr Holton said.
Contraception use was higher in those women and men who were born in Australia, spoke English as their first language, and had private health insurance.
“It is important that sexual health information and education is available to all women and men regardless of their cultural or socioeconomic background so that they can make informed decisions about which contraceptive method is best for them,” said co-author Dr Karen Freilich.
The findings of this study were published in the European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care.
About Dr Sara Holton
Dr Sara Holton is a Research Fellow at Monash University whose research investigates psychosocial aspects of women’s reproductive lives including their contraceptive use.
About Dr Karen Freilich
Dr Karen Freilich is a Monash University medical graduate with a keen interest in pursuing a career in sexual health and health education. She is also the host of the medical education podcast, Humerus Hacks.
About the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine
Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine is co-located with the Alfred Hospital in Prahran, Victoria. The institute teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students in public health and medicine. It comprises over 1,000 staff involved in teaching and research, with medical research capabilities in large population-based studies and clinical registries (bio-banks). Research areas include cancer, trauma, ageing, women’s health and chronic disease, among others.