The use of contraceptives has increased among young women in Gothenburg, but not in areas that are socially vulnerable, finds a long-term study from Sahlgrenska Academy spanning four generations of young women.
The study covers 19-year-old women in Gothenburg over a 30-year period: 1981, 1991, 2001 and 2011. A total of 3,129 randomly selected women participated.
‘More attention needs to be given to education about contraception in areas that are especially vulnerable.’
"We have examined several factors that could potentially affect the use of contraceptives and incidences of pregnancies," says Ingela Lindh, a nurse and researcher in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "The significance of socioeconomic status was among the factors studied."
The study reveals several changes. The percentage of 19-year-olds who experienced unplanned pregnancies more than once has fallen. Ingela Lindh believes this is linked to more and more people using long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices and implants. The study also shows that an increasing number of women who choose to discontinue using their contraceptives do so because of mental side effects. Between 1981 and 2011, this share increased from 15 to 55 percent.
The researchers also note a disturbing trend in socioeconomically weak areas. The area of residence in Gothenburg proved to increasingly impact the use of contraceptives and the number of unplanned pregnancies. Between 1981 and 2011, the share of women who became mothers before age 20 declined from 4.4 to 1.6 percent. But the latest follow-up in 2011 points to a gradual increase in the number of pregnancies and a decline in the use of contraceptives in socioeconomically challenged areas, where many people have less education, fewer participate in the labor market and people generally have less money to live on.
"Many factors are affected by the socioeconomic context in which people find themselves," Lindh says. "In our study, we could also compare trends in the weight of 19-year-olds. On average, mean body weight increased 3.4 kilos, and in our last two follow-ups, body weights were higher among women in low status areas."
Lindh believes that more attention needs to be given to education about contraception in areas that are especially vulnerable: "The fact that we see this change toward a higher number of pregnancies and lower use of contraceptives in low-status areas indicates that there is a need for more information about contraceptives. I also believe that society in general needs more education about sex and relationships."