A prospective analysis of the relationship between sexual acceptability and contraceptive satisfaction over time

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2022 Mar;226(3):396.e1-396.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2021.10.008. Epub 2021 Oct 14.


Background: Contraceptives are used to prevent unwanted pregnancies and treat certain gynecologic conditions, but many women report non-use or inconsistent use because of method dissatisfaction. The sexual acceptability of contraception-how birth control methods affect users' sexual well-being-is likely an important component of contraceptive satisfaction but has yet to be systematically examined.

Objective: This study aimed to assess contraceptive satisfaction among new-start contraceptive users and examine whether sexual acceptability measures predict contraceptive satisfaction at 3 months while controlling for more commonly measured contraceptive side effects.

Study design: This analysis used data derived from the baseline, 1-month, and 3-month surveys of the HER Salt Lake Contraceptive Initiative, a prospective cohort study of new contraceptive clients. From March 2016 to March 2017, enrolled participants received their desired contraceptive method at no cost and could switch or discontinue at any time (up to 3 years). This analysis included individuals who continued their new contraceptive method for at least 1 month and completed all relevant survey measures. We used ordered logistic regression modeling to predict contraceptive satisfaction at 3 months. Primary predictor variables included changes in sexual functioning (6-item Female Sexual Function Index), sexual satisfaction (New Sexual Satisfaction Scale), and perceived impact of the contraceptive method on sex life at 1 month. Covariates included vaginal bleeding changes, physical side effects, and mood-related side effects.

Results: Our analytical sample included 1879 individuals. At 3 months, 52.1% of participants were "completely satisfied" with their contraceptive method, 30.7% were "somewhat satisfied," 4.2% were "neither satisfied nor dissatisfied," 6.9% were "somewhat dissatisfied," and 6.2% were "completely dissatisfied." Compared with patients who said their contraceptive method made their sex life "a lot" worse at 1 month, patients whose method improved their sex life "a lot" had a 7.7 times increased odds of greater satisfaction at 3 months (95% confidence interval, 4.02-14.60; P<.0001) and patients whose method improved their sex life a "little" had a 5.88 times increased odds of greater satisfaction (confidence interval, 3.12-11.11; P<.001). To a much lesser degree, experiencing less or no bleeding was significantly associated with increased satisfaction, whereas worsening of physical side effects was linked to decreased satisfaction. The only other factors significantly associated with satisfaction were changes in bleeding and physical side effects.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that patients' sexual experiences of their contraceptive methods are important correlates of satisfaction. Clinicians may wish to underscore that sexual experiences of birth control methods matter and encourage patients to find a contraceptive method that works for them sexually.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02734199.

Keywords: birth control; bleeding; contraception; satisfaction; sexual acceptability; side effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Contraception / methods
  • Contraceptive Agents*
  • Contraceptive Devices
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies


  • Contraceptive Agents

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02734199