The Birth Control Project: A longitudinal study of women’s contraception use and sexual health
Awarded 2014
Small Research Grants
Nicole Smith, PhD, MPH
Princeton University

Objectives: The study seeks to compare changes in sexual function among women using hormonal contraception to those among women using non-hormonal methods exclusively. Additionally, the study aims to determine how changes in sexual function influence method satisfaction and discontinuation. Methods: Women between the ages of 14 and 45 who were starting a new contraceptive were recruited from 30 US reproductive health clinics. Participants completed an online survey at baseline (method initiation) and after 3, 6, and 9 months. Measures assessed experiences with side effects, method satisfaction, sexual relationships, sexual function, and reasons for method switching or discontinuation. Results: Of the 587 women who completed the baseline survey, 50% initiated a combined hormonal, one-third used a non-hormonal, and 17% started a progestin-only method. To date, approximately half of participants have completed the study. Of the 1,056 follow-up surveys, 71% indicated method continuation, 16% switched, and 13% discontinued contraception. At three months, no significant differences exist in quality of sex life by method, though 24% of women using combined hormonal methods indicated an improvement in their sex life compared to 16% of women using either progestin-only or non-hormonal methods; 29% of ring and 23% of pill users reported their sex life got better compared to 12% of IUD users. Conclusions: The majority of women reported stable method use throughout the study, though close to one-third reported changing or stopping contraception use. Preliminary analyses show no difference in quality of sex life, however wide variation exists in women’s reports of how their contraceptive method impacts their sexual lives.