Background: Discontinuation of contraceptive use that is not immediately followed by resumption of use of another method while a woman is at risk is a common cause of unintended pregnancy.
Study design: We provide new estimates of discontinuation for the pill, injectable, male condom, withdrawal and fertility-awareness-based methods, and identify socioeconomic characteristics associated with discontinuation for the pill, male condom and withdrawal. We provide new estimates of resumption of use by prior method used and identify socioeconomic characteristics associated with resumption of use. Estimates are obtained using the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth, supplemented by the 2001 Abortion Patient Survey to correct for underreporting of abortion.
Results: The fraction of method use segments discontinued for method-related reasons within 1 year was highest for the male condom (57%), withdrawal (54%) and fertility-awareness-based methods (53%), and lowest for the pill (33%), with the injectable in-between (44%). However, contraception was abandoned altogether in only 25% of cases. The probability of resuming use of a contraceptive was 72% in the initial month of exposure to the risk of an unintended pregnancy; this rose to 76% by the third month.
Conclusion: The risk of discontinuation of use of reversible methods of contraception for method-related reasons, including a change of method, is very high, but fortunately the risk of abandoning use of contraception altogether is far lower, and most spells of exposure to risk of an unintended pregnancy following discontinuation are protected from the start by a switch to another method.