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Article

Counseling on methods’ side effects isn’t always based in evidence

All forms of prescription contraception have potential side effects and clinicians can’t predict which patients will experience them. So how do clinicians help patients navigate this uncertainty in choosing a contraceptive method?

In a new study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, titled “Contesting and Differentially Constructing Uncertainty: Negotiations of Contraceptive Use in the Clinical Encounter,” Occidental College’s Krystale Littlejohn and ANSIRH’s Katrina Kimport find that how clinicians discuss the uncertainty of side effects doesn’t always match what the scientific literature says about their likelihood. For example, clinicians tend to present less serious side effects that are “negative” as unlikely and those that are “positive” as likely. On serious side effects, clinicians failed to even mention their possible occurrence in over half the visits examined. When they did bring them up, they tended to frame the risk of serious side effects as manageable.

Drs. Littlejohn and Kimport sat down with the Journal of Health and Social Behavior and recorded a podcast about the study. Listen to the brief interview here.

To read the full study, download the open access PDF on the Sage Journals website.

Banner photo: © Aura Orozco-Fuentes

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ANSIRH is a program within the UCSF Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health and is a part of UCSF's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences.

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