Objectives: This follow-up study was planned to establish the frequency with which women miss their contraceptive pill, and to observe their behavior when they forget it. In those women who changed from a continuous cycle to an interrupted type of cycle, or vice versa, the study also aimed to evaluate the impact of this change on the pattern of omission of pills.
Methods: The longitudinal, prospective cohort study included healthy women of child-bearing age for whom a change of pill was being prescribed by their gynecologist. Data were recorded during the 6 months preceding inclusion in the study, and for the 6 months of follow-up; the women were asked to complete a diary in which they recorded the number and exact times of pill omission, and their behavior at each omission.
Results: A total of 617 gynecologists included 3316 women into the study; of these, a group of 2418 (73%) revisited the same gynecologist at follow-up. The groups who either visited the same or a different gynecologist were similar with respect to age, oral contraception type, omission type and frequency. A large non-compliance rate and women's difficulties in maintaining safe contraception after missing a pill were observed in the group with follow-up. Women were never risk-free when they missed a pill; they turned to numerous sources for discordant or conflicting information; 15% of 'not-forgetting' women at the pre-inclusion cycle recorded at least one omission at the last cycle of the 6-month follow-up period. Omission fluctuations during the observational period make it difficult to designate 'forgetful' or 'non-forgetful' classes of women. Administration of the pill in a continuous cycle, and probably 'study' and 'auto-questionnaire' effects, contributed to an improvement in compliance. In the group taking the continuous cycle pill, the omission number slightly decreased, particularly on the first day and week of the cycle, irrespective of the initial cycle type.
Conclusions: The importance of the phenomenon of non-compliance rate is confirmed as well as women's difficulties in knowing how to maintain contraceptive safety. The continuous cycle regimen is likely to improve women's compliance during the critical period of the cycle.