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Contraceptive Failures: A Reality Check

The media has been buzzing over recent reports of pregnancies occurring in women using Implanon, a single rod progestin-only contraceptive inserted under the skin of the upper arm and lasting for up to three years.

The headlines make it sound horrifying: “Hundreds Become Pregnant Despite Contraceptive Implanon” and “British Pregnancy Scare in UK Implicates Implanon.” I love how terminology can make something so common sound so frightening.

Actually, what happened was that 584 pregnancies occurred in Britain among about 1.3 million women using Implanon, for a failure rate of .04 percent. In other words, the method had an efficacy of over 99 percent. That’s a pretty effective contraceptive if you ask me.

But it should have been better than that

As good as it may seem, this failure rate is significantly higher than most of us would have expected based upon data from clinical trails of Implanon.

I recall being told at an Implanon insertion training just prior to its introduction in the U.S.  that in fact, not a single pregnancy had been reported at that point among users of the device in clinical trails. This would put the method up there with sterilization and IUD in terms of efficacy.

So what happened?

How did Implanon go from perfect efficacy to something less than perfect? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

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