Contraception and women over 40 years of age: mixed-method systematic review

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Contraception and women over 40 years of age: mixed-method systematic review.


This paper is a report of a mixed-method systematic review to identify barriers to, and facilitators of, contraceptive needs and choices of women over 40 years old.


Women over 40 years of age who do not want to conceive have specific needs for contraception to prevent unwanted, unplanned and unintended pregnancies prior to menopause.

Data sources.

Six databases were searched for published and grey literature from September 1997 to September 2007, along with the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. The Internet, professional networks and hand searching were also used.

Review methods.

Mixed-method synthesis using Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre phased design.


Guidelines to inform clinical decision-making were located but did not take account of age-related social factors affecting women's choices or local service availability. Women's access to services and contraceptive choices were influenced by educational level, general awareness of available methods, fear of side effects, women's social standing, religious and cultural beliefs, personal control, and confidentiality. The main factors influencing compliance and continuation rates were knowledge, positive experience and confidence, unacceptable side effects and safety concerns, information, support and advice, and ongoing husband/partner influences.


The utility of clinical guidelines could be improved by incorporating socio-cultural factors and women's views. Novel approaches to evidence translation and facilitation are required. Focusing on user-led, age-appropriate services rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach could improve the contraceptive choices and outcomes for women over 40 years old.

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