Patterns of contraceptive use among young Australian women with chronic disease: findings from a prospective cohort study

Reprod Health. 2022 May 7;19(1):111. doi: 10.1186/s12978-022-01413-x.

Abstract

Background: Given chronic disease is increasing among young women and unintended pregnancies among these women are associated with poor maternal and fetal outcomes, these women would benefit from effective preconception care. However, there is a lack of understanding of how these women use or don't use contraception to inform such interventions. This study examined patterns of contraceptive use among an Australian cohort of young women and investigated the influence of chronic disease on contraceptive use over time.

Methods: Using data from 15,244 young women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health (born 1989-1995), latent transition analysis was performed to identify distinct contraceptive patterns among women who were at risk of an unintended pregnancy. Multinomial mixed-effect models were used to evaluate the relationship between contraceptive combinations and chronic disease.

Results: Contraceptive use for women with cardiac and autoinflammatory diseases differed to women without chronic disease over the observation period. Compared to women without chronic disease using the pill, women with cardiac disease had double the odds of using 'other' contraception and condoms (OR = 2.20, 95% CI 1.34, 3.59) and a modest increase in the odds of using the combined oral contraceptive pill and condoms (OR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.03, 1.89). Compared to women without chronic disease who used the pill, women with autoinflammatory disease had increased odds of using LARC and condoms (OR = 1.58, 95% CI 1.04, 2.41), using 'other' contraception and condoms (OR = 1.69, 95% CI 1.11, 2.57), and using the combined oral contraceptive pill and condoms (OR = 1.38, 95% CI 1.09, 1.75). No differences in contraceptive patterns over the observation period were found for women with asthma or diabetes when compared to women without chronic disease.

Conclusion: The findings identified a need for effective contraceptive counselling as part of routine chronic disease care and improved communication between health care providers and women with chronic disease to improve young women's contraceptive knowledge and agency in contraceptive choice, particularly for those with cardiac or autoinflammatory conditions. This may be the key to reducing high-risk unintended pregnancies among this vulnerable population.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Cohort study; Contraceptive methods; Long-acting reversible contraception; Longitudinal; Pill; Withdrawal; Young women.

Plain language summary

Chronic disease is increasing among young women and unintended pregnancies among these women are associated with poor outcomes for both the mother and baby. To optimise outcomes, it is important for these women to plan pregnancies and use effective contraception until such time. However, there is a lack of understanding of how these women use or don’t use contraception, particularly with respect to highly effective contraception. This study examined patterns of contraceptive use among an Australian cohort of young women (born 1989–1995) and investigated the influence of chronic disease on contraceptive use over time. We found differences in contraceptive use over time for women with cardiac disease and those with autoinflammatory diseases. Importantly, compared to women without chronic disease using the pill alone, women with cardiac disease had double the odds of using low efficacy contraception. While women with autoinflammatory disease were 69% more likely to use long-acting methods combined with condoms, these women were also 70% more likely to use low efficacy contraception, compared to women without chronic disease who used the pill only. Contraceptive patterns did not differ for women with asthma or diabetes from women without chronic disease. The findings identified a need for effective contraceptive counselling as part of routine chronic disease care and improved communication between health care providers and women with chronic disease to improve young women’s contraceptive knowledge and contraceptive decision-making, particularly for those with cardiac or autoinflammatory conditions. This may be the key to reducing high-risk unintended pregnancies among this vulnerable population.

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Contraception*
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies

Substances

  • Contraceptives, Oral, Combined