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June 2, 2004

Male Involvement in Contraceptive Education Can Decrease Repeat Abortions

By offering post-abortion contraceptive counseling to couples, health providers may be able to decrease the number of repeat abortions, according to research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Of the 1.2 million women who have abortions annually in the United States, approximately half have had abortions previously. Past studies have also shown that nearly 50 percent of women receiving abortions had not used any contraception during the month they became pregnant.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins studied the level of involvement of others in the abortion process at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. They found that women were more likely to be accompanied at the time of the abortion by the male partner they had become pregnant with (34 percent of women) than by any other individual. Approximately two-thirds of the women interviewed also described their male partner as being involved with and supportive of the decision to terminate the pregnancy. The researchers translated these findings to mean that male partners most likely have a say with regard to post-abortion contraceptive choices.

Lead author Britta Beenhakker, a graduate student in the School’s Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, said, “Given the relatively high level at which male partners are accompanying women at the time of an abortion, these results are exciting. They justify further exploration of what the accompaniment of these male partners translates into, and how their accompaniment can be incorporated into health services in a beneficial way.”

Stan Becker, PhD, a co-author and professor in the Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, said, “If a woman seeking an abortion is accompanied by her male partner and he is not included in counseling in any way, it constitutes a missed opportunity to reduce repeat abortions.”

Beenhakker said the findings suggest a need for greater investigation into innovative public health interventions that address the broader social context of individuals. She said, “In this example, we would be building on the potential strength and support found within a couple to better address contraceptive needs, in hopes of possibly preventing a repeat abortion more effectively than through an intervention with the woman alone.”

The authors said that future studies are warranted to test post-abortion contraception interventions that include male partners.
-- Kenna L. Lowe

“Are partners available for post-abortion contraceptive counseling? A pilot study in a Baltimore City clinic” was published in the May 2004 issue of the journal Contraception.

Stephanie Hires and Paul Blumenthal, with the Johns Hopkins Bayview Center on Contraceptive Research and Programs, Nell Molano Di Targiana, with the Johns Hopkins Bayview Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, and George Huggins, with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, co-authored the study.

The study was supported by grants from the Johns Hopkins University Population Center (National Institutes of Child Health and Development).

Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Kenna Lowe or Tim Parsons at 410-955-6878 or paffairs@jhsph.edu.