Guide on Contraceptive Safety Issued for Ob-Gyns

August 22, 2011

Washington, DC -- A new guide for ob-gyns that rates the safety of different contraceptives on a scale of 1 to 4 based on an individual woman's health status, age, and preexisting medical conditions was issued today by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College).

The College's guide is based on the US Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, 2010 (US MEC) released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The document includes the revised recommendations for the use of contraceptive methods during the postpartum period released in July 2011. "Nearly half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned," said Eve Espey, MD, MPH, chair of The College's Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Work Group and who helped develop the document. "Women with certain medical conditions are at higher risk for adverse outcomes with an unintended pregnancy, and these recommendations can assist clinicians in helping patients choose the most appropriate contraceptive method."

The College's guide features an easy-to-follow table in which medical conditions are listed alphabetically and paired with six contraceptive methods. The combinations of medical conditions and contraceptive methods are rated on a scale of 1 to 4 in terms of safety. Category 1 indicates there are no restrictions for use of the method while category 4 indicates the method could present an unacceptable health risk for the patient.

More than 65 medical conditions and characteristics, from women's cancers and chronic diseases to breastfeeding and smoking, with additional sub-conditions, are covered in the table. In addition to the rating of each contraceptive method, The College and the CDC note that ob-gyns should consider the individual circumstances of each patient, including the severity of her medical condition, her personal preference, and the effectiveness, acceptability, and availability of alternative contraceptive methods.

"It's important for ob-gyns providing family planning services to understand and utilize the recommendations in the US MEC," said Dr. Espey. "All women should have access to safe contraceptive methods, and as the US MEC and The College's guide show, there are appropriate options for most women."

Committee Opinion #505 "Understanding and Using the US Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, 2010" is published in the September 2011 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation's leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 55,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women's health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.

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