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Race and Ethnicity Might Determine Which Contraception Method Your Doctor Prescribes

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Reproductive System related image Photo: Getty Images

It is a minority of women who go to their doctors knowing exactly which form of birth control is right for them. This is why entire clinic visits are dedicated to mulling through medical histories and discussing the pros and cons of each method--every woman is different and so is her approach to choosing contraception.

That said, it would be shocking to hear that such an intimate health decision might sometimes be made based on segregating factors like race and ethnicity. However, this is what researchers at the University of California, San Francisco are finding.

In a study looking at over 500 health care providers’ prescribing behaviors, researchers found that clinicians were more likely to recommend the intrauterine device (IUD) to Latinas and African American women of low socioeconomic status than to white women of the same background.
While these findings may at first appear progressive--minority women are receiving the latest, most effective form of long term birth control--they also raise concern as to why such differences exist.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Christine Dehlendorf, acknowledges this concern in the press release, citing historical efforts to limit the fertility of minority and poor women in the United States. While it’s an implicating stretch to suggest that providers could be selectively limiting fertility in underrepresented populations, the findings underline a greater principle: that all women deserve to have comprehensive and inclusive contraception counseling, regardless of race or finances.

The article also found that providers were less likely to recommend the IUD to poor white women than to wealthier white women, and that the same class barriers did not exist for wealthy Latina or African American women.
Inclusive in the list of clinicians studied were medical physicians (M.D.), osteopathic physicians (D.O.), nurse practitioners (N.P.), and physician assistants (P.A.).

To read more about this article, please visit: http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(10)00578-8/fulltext.

To learn more about the intrauterine device (IUD) and its efficacy, please visit Planned Parenthood’s contraception website at:

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EmpowHER Guest

There are many variables not mentioned in article; a big one is whether women have children, which can be a key consideration if more long-term BC like an IUD is being recommended, along with the time-line for another child. Also, what is the time frame for this research? There is more funding available for IUDs in general than there was 5 years ago. Also, do the recommendations of clinicians include the woman's preference for BC?

December 13, 2010 - 4:51pm
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