Medical contraindications to estrogen and contraceptive use among women veterans

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Abstract

Background

Women veterans have high rates of medical comorbidities and may be particularly vulnerable to adverse health outcomes associated with unintended pregnancy.

Objectives

The objective of the study was to estimate the prevalence of medical contraindications to estrogen-containing combined hormonal contraception among women veterans of reproductive age and to evaluate the relationship between contraindications and contraceptive use.

Study Design

This was a secondary analysis of data from a cross-sectional, telephone-based survey with a national sample of 2302 female veterans, aged 18–45 years, who use the Veterans Administration Healthcare System for primary care. This analysis included women at risk of unintended pregnancy, defined as heterosexually active and not pregnant or trying to conceive and with no history of hysterectomy or infertility. Seven contraindications to combined hormonal contraception were identified using survey data or medical diagnosis codes: hypertension; coronary artery disease; active migraine in women older than 35 years or migraine with aura; smoking in women older than 35 years; and a history of thromboembolism, stroke, or breast cancer. Outcomes were current use of combined hormonal contraception and contraceptive method type (combined hormonal contraception, and other prescription methods, nonprescription methods or no method). Multivariable logistic and multinomial regression were used to assess the relationship between contraindications and combined hormonal contraception use and method type, respectively.

Results

Among 1169 women veterans at risk of unintended pregnancy, 339 (29%) had at least 1 contraindication to combined hormonal contraception. The most prevalent conditions were hypertension (14.9%) and migraine (8.7%). In adjusted analyses, women with contraindications were less likely than women without contraindications to report use of combined hormonal contraception (adjusted odds ratio, 0.54, 95% confidence interval, 0.37–0.79). Relative to use of combined hormonal contraception, women with contraindications were more likely than women without contraindications to use other prescription methods (adjusted odds ratio, 1.74, 95% confidence interval, 1.17–2.60), nonprescription methods (adjusted odds ratio, 1.96, 95% confidence interval, 1.19–3.22), and no method (adjusted odds ratio, 2.29, 95% confidence interval, 1.35–3.89).

Conclusion

Women veterans at risk of unintended pregnancy have a high burden of medical contraindications to estrogen. Women with contraindications were less likely to use combined hormonal contraceptive methods but were more likely to use no method, suggesting an unmet need for contraception in this medically vulnerable population.

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