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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Sterilisation 'most popular birth control'
Surgery
Surgical sterilisations more popular than taking the Pill, research suggests
Sterilisation is now the most popular form of contraception among American women, research suggests.

Almost one in three of US women who use birth control rely on their own or their partner's sterilisation, while just 10% use the contraceptive pill.



What is a little upsetting is that there are reliable long term methods which are available, such as the Pill and the IUD, which are under used and which in general are going to be safer because they are a non-surgical approach

Dr Anne Davis, Columbia University
The authors of the US study suggested that increased safety of sterilisation operations and fears about the Pill were responsible for their findings.

The proportion of women using sterilisation was up from 22% of contracepting women in 1982 to 28% in 1995.

Dr Anne Davis, associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Columbia University in New York, told BBC News Online: "What is a little upsetting is that there are reliable long term methods which are available, such as the Pill and the IUD, which are under used and which in general are going to be safer because they are a non-surgical approach."

She said fears about the Pill, which has been said to cause blood clotting in some cases, were misplaced. "First generation" pills were given the all-clear in the UK last year following a scientific review which proclaimed them safe.

And Dr Davis said sterilisation had become more popular because of shorter stays in hospital and developments in keyhole surgery.

Of women asked, up to 10% said they regretted having a sterilisation, but far fewer actually went ahead and had the procedure reversed.

The numbers of women having sterilisations ranged from almost zero in teenagers, to almost half of women aged over 40.

Unmarried

A second report, also published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, found that a third of tubal sterilisations were performed in unmarried women - in line with the proportion of children who are born outside marriage in the US.

Women were also keener to rely on their own sterilisation than their partner having a vasectomy, which is a safer and quicker operation.

Larry Bumpass and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin suggested this might be due to women wanting to have control over the decision.



It is surprising that under 40s are using sterilisation as their major form of contraception

Family Planning Association
Tubal sterilisations were reversed in 6% of cases, compared to less than 1% of vasectomies, they found.

The Family Planning Association said it was "surprising" that so many women were opting for sterilisation.

A spokeswoman said: "Sterilisation is the most popular form of contraception among both men and women over 40. But among younger age groups it is certainly not as popular as the Pill or the condom.

"The Pill has been the most popular form of contraception for women in the under 35 age group for a long time.

"It is surprising that under 40s are using sterilisation as their major form of contraception. It is a big step to take for women under 30 to decide they don't want children."

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See also:

23 Feb 00 | Health
Most men 'would take the pill'
03 Mar 00 | Health
Girls 'shun the Pill'
07 Apr 99 | Health
U-turn over pill scare
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