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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2019 Apr;220(4):376.e1-376.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2018.12.022. Epub 2018 Dec 18.

Predictors of contraceptive switching and discontinuation within the first 6 months of use among Highly Effective Reversible Contraceptive Initiative Salt Lake study participants.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT. Electronic address:
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.
Department of Sociology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.



Nearly half of women will switch or discontinue using their selected contraceptive method in the first year. Research on early switching or discontinuation provides important clinical and public health insights, although few studies have assessed associated factors, particularly among longitudinal cohorts.


The current study explores attributes associated with early contraceptive method switching or discontinuation (<6 months of initiation) among participants enrolled in the intervention cohorts of the Highly Effective Reversible Contraceptive Initiative Salt Lake Contraceptive Initiative (Utah, United States).


Highly Effective Reversible Contraceptive Initiative Salt Lake participants have access to no-cost contraception for 3 years. This includes both the initial selection and the ability to switch or to discontinue methods without cost. Methods available included the following: nonhormonal behavioral methods (male/female condoms, withdrawal, diaphragms, cervical caps, and fertility awareness); short-acting methods (pill, patch, ring, and injectable); and long-acting methods (intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants). Participants completed surveys at baseline and at 1, 3, and 6 months. We collected data on participant demographics, contraceptive continuation, switching, and discontinuation, as well as factors associated with these changes, including established measures of pregnancy intention and ambivalence and reasons for switching or discontinuing. We conducted descriptive statistics, univariable, and multivariable Poisson regression analyses to assess predictors of both discontinuation and switching. We also conducted χ2 analyses to compare reported reasons for stopping between switchers and discontinuers.


At 6 months, 2,583 women (70.0%) reported continuation of their baseline method, 367 (10%) reported at least 1 period of discontinuation, 459 (12.4%) reported switching to a different method, and 279 (7.6%) did not provide 6-month follow-up. Factors associated with discontinuation included selection of a short-acting method (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 2.49; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.97, 3.12), report of Hispanic ethnicity (IRR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.12, 1.89) and nonwhite race (IRR, 1.48; 95% CI, 1.08, 2.02), and having any future pregnancy plans, even years out. Participants with some college education were less likely to report discontinuation (IRR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.57, 0.94). Selecting a short-acting method at baseline was also associated with increased likelihood of method switching (IRR, 2.29, 95% CI, 1.87, 2.80), as was having 2 or more children (IRR, 1.37; 95% CI, 1.08, 1.74). Women were less likely to switch if they were on their parents' insurance (IRR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.56, 0.99). Among participants who switched methods, 36.9% switched to a long-acting reversible method, 31.7% switched to a short-acting hormonal method, and 31.1% switched to a nonhormonal behavioral method, such as condom use. Of participants providing a reason for stopping, 454 women (73.2%) reported side effects as 1 reason for switching or discontinuing their initial method.


Early contraceptive method switching and discontinuation are frequent outcomes of contraceptive use. These changes are common even with removal of contraceptive access barriers.


United States; contraception; discontinuation; family planning; switching


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