Article Text

Does research into contraceptive method discontinuation address women's own reasons? A critical review
  1. Kumiyo Inoue1,
  2. Alexandra Barratt2,
  3. Juliet Richters3
  1. 1PhD Candidate, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
  2. 2Professor, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  3. 3Professor, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kumiyo Inoue, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, High Street, Kensington, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia; k.inoue{at}


Objective To examine the clinical and epidemiological literature addressing contraceptive method change or discontinuation and to assess whether the documented reasons reflected women's experiences.

Methods Major databases including Medline and PsycINFO were searched using keywords related to contraception and discontinuation, adherence and satisfaction, for articles published between January 2003 and February 2013. Studies in developed countries that focused on women of reproductive age and reasons for method change or discontinuation were included. Reasons reported were categorised and examined.

Results A total of 123 papers were reviewed in detail. Medical terminology was generally used to describe reasons for method discontinuation. The top two reported reasons were bleeding and pregnancy, but there was a lack of consensus about the categorisation of reasons. Broad categories that were not self-explanatory were included in more than half of the papers, often without further explanation. Only 12 studies expanded on categories containing ‘other’, ‘non-medical’ or ‘personal’ reasons. Eight papers included categories that attributed discontinuation to the participant, such as ‘dissatisfied with method’.

Conclusions Studies of reasons for discontinuation of contraceptives do not well describe women's specific reasons. Studies rely heavily on medical terms and often fail to document women's subjective experiences. Future studies should create an opportunity for women to articulate their non-medical reasons in their own words, including those related to their sexual lives. Furthermore, researchers should distinguish, if possible, between reasons for discontinuation of a method and reasons for ceasing participation in a research study.

  • hormonal contraception
  • implants
  • intrauterine devices
  • intrauterine systems
  • oral contraceptives

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