Educating Healthcare Workers on IUDs, Implants Halves Unintended Pregnancies, Study Finds

June 19, 2015|11:25 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

More than 50 percent of pregnancies are unintended, resulting in poor birth outcomes due to delayed access to prenatal care and preterm birth. But a new study found that providing updated intrauterine device (IUD) and implant training to healthcare workers who give family planning advice can significantly reduce unintended pregnancies.

"This is a health outcome that we can do something about, and it’s exciting we’ve found some that works,” says Cynthia Harper, the study’s lead researcher and a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

The study included healthcare workers from 40 Planned Parenthood centers in 15 states and 1,500 participants. In the control group, the healthcare workers didn’t receive updated long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) training, so they provided their standard information to their patients seeking family planning counseling. In the treatment group, training included watching an educational video about IUDs and implants, and discussing how IUDs and implants are almost 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. As a result, 71 percent of the healthcare workers who received the training shared information about LARC during family planning counseling, while only 39 percent of the healthcare workers in the control group talked to their patients about LARC.

Ultimately, 28 percent of the treatment group participants elected to get IUDs or implants, versus 17 percent of the control group participants. A year later, the unintended pregnancy rate in the treatment group had dropped from 15 percent to 8 percent.

Many public health experts now say that LARC is a top way to prevent unintended pregnancy.

"The greatest takeaway is that we have the tools and the knowledge available now in the U.S. for women to prevent pregnancy if it’s not the right time for them to become pregnant,” says Harper.