Contraception in US servicewomen: emerging knowledge, considerations, and needs

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Abstract

Purpose of review

We describe current literature regarding contraceptive use among women serving in the military. We explore the state of contraceptive use by female servicewomen, gaps in knowledge, special considerations, and evidence of unmet needs.

Recent findings

Recent data on US servicewomen show that overall rates of contraceptive use remain low. Data highlight disparities and suggest barriers to contraceptive uptake persist, with contraceptive use being lower around the time of deployment. Methods that do not require daily use or prescription refills, such as long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) – intrauterine devices and contraceptive implants – may be distinctly well suited for service and deployment. Two contemporary studies document growing popularity of LARC methods among female members of the military, possibly driven by a surge in contraceptive implant use. Nonetheless, LARC appears to remain underutilized.

Summary

Despite no-cost provision, the importance of preventing unplanned pregnancy, and the potential benefits of cycle control during service, emerging data about the US military suggest barriers to and underutilization of contraception, particularly LARC. Research is needed to explore preferences and tailor contraceptive counseling to servicewomen. Existing and future work can inform efforts to standardize military provider training and ensure all servicewomen are appropriately counseled and have timely access to any method they may choose.

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