Medical Monday: Dramatic Results with Long Acting Birth Control

Did you know that fully half of all pregnancies are unplanned?  Something pretty dramatic would have to happen to slash the rate of abortions and the rate of unplanned pregnancies, right? Actually not.

Hot off the press:

Researchers at Children's Hospital Colorado, through a grant from the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation, devised a study to see the effect of freely providing long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCS) to teens and women who could not afford them. They did this over a 6 year period. The birth rate for teenagers fell 40% percent! The rate of abortions in that group fell by 42% as well. The pregnancy rate for unmarried women under 25 fell similarly. 

What are LARCs? They are the subdermal (under the skin) implants like Nexplanon, or the IUDs (intrauterine devices) such as Skyla, Mirena and Paraguard. These are well established, well understood devices which have excellent safety profiles. For more information, check our section HERE

These LARCs are fairly expensive. This study showed the effects of eliminating expense as a factor. Interestingly, for every dollar of cost of the contraceptive, nearly $6 was saved in Colorado's Medicaid program.

Perhaps more importantly, there are as yet, unmeasured consequences. We know from global data that there is an inverse relationship between education and number of children. We know that women who have children early may postpone or forego their education. We also know that women who are educated have better access to contraception and choose to delay childbearing. Not surprisingly, as a women's number of children rises, her financial dependence increases. On a population basis, as numbers of children rise, so do income disparities between men and women. Finally, as number of children rise, standard of living goes down and rates of poverty go up. It will be interesting to see whether, in Colorado, rates of educational attainment and income go up among young women in this cohort. 

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