Helping Women Use the Pill
Around the world over 100 million women rely on oral contraceptives (OCs). They benefit from the effectiveness, safety, and convenience of the pill. Still, many women do not use the pill as successfully as possible. Programs can help women use OCs effectively. When taken properly, the pill is a highly effective contraceptive. Oral contraceptives are unique among family planning methods, however: Their full effectiveness requires the user's daily action. In part because some women have trouble taking the pill correctly, pregnancy rates are usually much higher than if the pill were used perfectly. For combined OCs the perfect-use pregnancy rate is estimated at only 0.1 per 100 women in the first 12 months of use. In actual use pregnancy rates range from 1.7 to 10.5 pregnancies per 100 women in the first 12 months in 21 surveyed countries. Better pill use would make a big difference. Based on worldwide levels of pill use in 2000, for example, over 2 million women become pregnant unintentionally each year because they do not take the pill effectively. Also, women would be healthier, and medical costs would be less, since complications of pregnancy, childbirth, and unsafe abortion are among the leading causes of women's ill health and death in developing countries.