1 in 2 Women Surveyed Said Gynac Has Never or Barely Discussed Birth Control With Them
In our first analysis based on our survey with 1,099 women regarding their reproductive health care, we reported that only half said their doctor had discussed contraceptive options with them thoroughly and/or proactively. In this article, we’ll look at that breakdown a little more closely.
Women under age 25 — arguably the age group most likely to benefit from full knowledge of their contraceptive options — were least likely to discuss it with their gynacs; 68% said their doctors had never brought up birth control with them, or had mentioned it only in passing.
As anyone who has ever visited a gynacologist’s office knows, one of the first questions asked is, “Are you married?” But surprisingly, doctors’ discussions of birth control don’t seem to be based on marital status (read: assumed sexual activity); roughly half of married – and thus, presumably sexually active – women report that their doctors have never discussed birth control with them, or have mentioned it only in passing. The same is true for unmarried women who responded to the survey as well.
Half of actually sexually active women surveyed say their doctor has never raised the topic of birth control with them, or mentioned it only in passing.
But as anyone who has ever lived knows, you don’t have to be married to be sexually active. So, the real question (aside from “Are you sexually active?”) is: Are the women who might need birth control most getting information from the expert? It seems not – a similar amount, roughly half, of actually sexually active women say their doctor has never raised the topic of birth control with them, or mentioned it only in passing.
Unfortunately, access to thorough information about one aspect of reproductive health doesn’t necessarily mean access to thorough information about other aspects of reproductive health: Most of the women who said their doctors had thoroughly and proactively discussed birth control with them had not had any discussion of Pap smears or HPV screening, or breast exams.
Ultimately, a conversation about birth control is a conversation about sex. Little wonder, then, that 66% of women who felt they could discuss sex openly with and without fear of judgment from their gynacs also reported thorough and/or proactive discussion of birth control.
A conversation about birth control is also a conversation about agency and control over reproductive health. Again, little wonder that roughly the same percentage of women who report leaving their gynac’s office feeling satisfied say their doctors have thoroughly and/or proactively discussed birth control with them. Still, that’s nearly 40% of women reporting satisfaction who aren’t getting thorough information about birth control from what should be their most reliable source.
But conversations are a two-way street. Doctors can offer information, but if the patient isn’t open to the discussion, the knowledge transfer stops in its tracks. If women are the ones shutting down these contraceptive conversations, here’s a hint, perhaps, as to why: 65% of women who report not feeling the information they share with their gynac will remain confidential, also report their doctors never discussing birth control with them, or mentioning it only in passing.