Is Birth Control Info Missing From Chronic Condition Care?

There are a bunch of common health conditions—like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and obesity—that affect U.S. women under age 45. Women who have chronic health conditions like these are more likely to visit a health care provider regularly than those who don’t, yet they may also be more likely to have accidental pregnancies. Could it be that despite the frequent medical visits, these women aren’t getting the information they need about birth control?

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Yale University tried to answer that question by looking at insurance claims from over 11,600 women ages 21-45 who were covered by private insurance plans in Michigan. The researchers only looked at women who had been covered for three or more years by health plans that covered birth control.

Bad news for women with health conditions?
Taking into account the women’s age, income, number of medical visits, and frequency of Pap tests, the study found that women with chronic health conditions were 15 percent less likely to have prescriptions for birth control compared to women who didn’t have a health condition. This suggests that the people who provide primary health care for the nearly 40 million women living with chronic conditions may not be doing enough to inform these women about their birth control options. It’s bad news for any woman living with a chronic health condition who doesn’t want to be pregnant, and even worse news for those whose conditions make pregnancy especially risky.

Something to keep in mind…
Because this study used health insurance claims, the researchers could only learn about women’s use of prescription birth control methods like the pill, the patch, the ring, the shotIUDs, and the implant. They couldn’t learn about women’s use of condomswithdrawal, or fertility awareness methods (a.k.a. Natural Family Planning), so they may have underestimated total birth control use. (Unfortunately we don’t know if women with chronic health conditions are any more likely than women without health conditions to use non-prescription birth control methods.)

If you have a chronic health condition, this study suggests you may want to take the lead on asking your health care provider about your birth control options. If you’re dealing with heavy or irregular periods, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or breast cancer, we can help you start exploring your options too.

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Magdalena J.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thank you!

Val M.
Val M3 years ago

Sadly noted.

Elena P.
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you :)

Leia P.
Leia P.3 years ago


j A3 years ago

might change with shifts to coordinated care approaches

Donnie H.
Donnie H3 years ago

Condoms are quite effective as a birth control choice. And they help prevent STDs. They are available in pharmacies and many other stores, without a prescription. I assume Planned-parenthood has condoms available, too.

J Wells
J Wells3 years ago

A lot of chronic conditions can land you on disability, or you could end up having them once you are on disability. That means you are on Medicare, and that means no viable options for care from a gynecologist or ob for a lot of women. None in my entire county will accept me as a patient, even Planned Parenthood won't take my insurance. So I and women like me are left in a lurch

Sue H.
Sue H3 years ago

Great reminder that we Must advocate for ourselves rather than expect our doctors to know all.

Leslie W.
Leslie W3 years ago

Some of the listed health issues make hormone based birth control a less than desirable choice.

And some doctors have joined the extreme right and equate birth control with abortion and also believe they have a right to dictate a woman's choice.

But how do we even know from insurance records that these aren't planned pregnancies? Women do choose to have babies you know. They may feel that their chronic conditions are managed well enough that they can safely see a pregnancy through and have a healthy child.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago