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More U.S. Women Getting Birth Control Services

But the number receiving reproductive health care services remains flat, survey finds

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- More U.S. women are availing themselves of contraceptives services, such as birth control pill prescriptions, according to a new national survey.

From 1995 to 2002, the percentage of American women who said they received contraceptive services rose from 36 percent to 41 percent, according to Jennifer J. Frost, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute in New York City, and author of the survey report published in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Overall, the percentage of women receiving all sexual and reproductive health care services --including not only birth control but also such services as STD testing and Pap tests -- remained constant at 74 percent, the survey found.

While the survey findings are encouraging, Frost said, "There's room for improvement."

She examined the 1995 and 2002 National Survey of Family Growth to detect patterns and trends in the use of sexual and reproductive health care services. The surveys involved in-home questionnaires of women ages 15 to 44 who were asked if they had received 13 specific services in the past 12 months.

While 76 percent of the respondents said they got services mostly from private health care providers, about one-fourth said they went to a public clinic or other public facility. And those who went to the publicly funded clinics got a broader range of services, according to the survey.

Behind the finding that women overall received more contraceptive services may be another trend, Frost said: That fewer women may be resorting to sterilization, so they need to return to the doctor for birth control pills and other contraceptive options.

The publicly funded clinics, she said, "are filling a big need for low-income women and providing a really important service."

"There are still a lot of women not getting all the services they need," Frost added, citing counseling or advice about contraception as an example.

Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the survey's findings "highlight changes that hopefully will become trends."

Specifically, she was talking about the finding that most women received services from private doctors. "This suggests that private providers are beginning to focus on the contraceptive needs of women," she said.

Private health-care providers should take notes from public clinics, Cullins said. "Since the advent of Title X (a federal program established in 1970 under President Richard Nixon to fund family planning and preventive health services), publicly funded clinics have always focused on contraceptive access, pregnancy testing, and STD-related care."

More information

To learn more about contraception, visit the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc.

SOURCES: Jennifer J. Frost, DrPH, senior research associate, the Guttmacher Institute, New York City; Vanessa Cullins, M.D., vice president for medical affairs, Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., Washington, D.C.; October 2008, American Journal of Public Health

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