Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and the rate is highest among younger women and those who are underinsured.
According to Maria Rodriguez, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the OHSU School of Medicine, unintended pregnancy has far-reaching health and economic considerations for women, as well as their families and communities.
“A woman not planning to get pregnant is more likely to exhibit unhealthy behaviors, or delay obtaining proper prenatal care. This could negatively impact the health of both woman and baby, physically, mentally and economically,” she says. “Broad access to, and consistent utilization of, contraception is a safe and effective way to manage rates of unintended conception.”
A new study led by Rodriguez, and published online today in JAMA Network Open, suggests that contraception – including birth control pills – prescribed by a pharmacist is associated with higher rates of long-term use, particularly among younger and uninsured women.
The study, which includes more than 400 women and nearly 140 pharmacies across California, Hawaii, Colorado and Oregon, found that pharmacists are more likely to dispense six months or more of contraception at a time. Rodriquez and colleagues report this is a safe and cost-effective strategy to improving contraceptive continuation and preventing unintended pregnancy.
“Because pharmacies are often located within the community that they service, tend to have extended hours compared to medical clinics, and do not require appointments to be seen, they eliminate many of the barriers associated with contraceptive access, particularly in rural or underserved areas,” says Rodriguez. “While additional research is necessary to better understand the association of pharmacist prescription of contraception and reduced rates of unintended pregnancy, this data positions the model as a promising strategy to increase access to contraception for new users, or to promote continuation among current users.”
This study was funded by Arnold Ventures, as well as the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR0002369), a part of the National Institutes of Health.