Reasons for rejecting hormonal contraception in Western countries: A systematic review

Soc Sci Med. 2021 Sep:284:114247. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114247. Epub 2021 Jul 20.


Over the past decade, women in Western countries have taken to various social media platforms to share their dissatisfactory experiences with hormonal contraception, which may be pills, patches, rings, injectables, implants or hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs). These online testimonials have been denounced as spreading "hormonophobia", i.e. an excessive fear of hormones based on irrational causes such as an overestimation of health risks associated with their use, that was already aroused by the recurring media controversies over hormonal contraception. In order to move toward a reproductive justice framework, we propose to study the arguments that women and men (as partners of female users) recently put forward against hormonal contraception to see whether they are related to hormonophobia. The aim of this article is to conduct a systematic review of the recent scientific literature in order to construct an evidence-based typology of reasons for rejecting hormonal contraception, in a continuum perspective from complaints to choosing not to use it, cited by women and men in Western countries in a recent time. The published literature was systematically searched using PubMed and the database from the French National Institute for Demographic Studies (Ined). A total of 42 articles were included for full-text analysis. Eight main categories emerged as reasons for rejecting hormonal contraception: problems related to physical side effects; altered mental health; negative impact on sexuality; concerns about future fertility; invocation of nature; concerns about menstruation; fears and anxiety; and the delegitimization of the side effects of hormonal contraceptives. Thus, arguments against hormonal contraception appeared complex and multifactorial. Future research should examine the provider-patient relationship, the gender bias of hormonal contraception and demands for naturalness in order to understand how birth control could better meet the needs and expectations of women and men in Western countries today.

Keywords: Contraception; Fears; Health; Hormones; Menstruation; Nature; Rejection; Side effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraception
  • Female
  • Fertility
  • Hormonal Contraception*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexism*
  • Sexual Behavior