Pic by Ceridwn, via Wikimedia Commons

A new study from the Guttmacher Institute find that 14 percent of birth control pill users take the pill for non-contraceptive purposes.

According to the study (.pdf), 1.5 million women rely on birth control pills for exclusively for non-contraceptive purposes. The study also found “that more than half (58 percent) of all pill users rely on the method, at least in part, for purposes other than pregnancy prevention—meaning that only 42 percent use the pill exclusively for contraceptive reasons”:

The study—based on U.S government data from the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG)—revealed that after pregnancy prevention (86%), the most common reasons women use the pill include reducing cramps or menstrual pain (31%); menstrual regulation, which for some women may help prevent migraines and other painful “side effects” of menstruation (28%); treatment of acne (14%); and treatment of endometriosis (4%). Additionally, it found that some 762,000 women who have never had sex use the pill, and they do so almost exclusively (99%) for noncontraceptive reasons.

Menstrual-related disorders and irregular periods are particularly common during adolescence. Not surprisingly, the study found that teens aged 15–19 who use the pill are more likely to do so for non-contraceptive purposes (82%) than for birth control (67%). Moreover, 33% of teen pill users report using oral contraceptive pills solely for noncontraceptive purposes.

“It is well established that oral contraceptives are essential health care because they prevent unintended pregnancies,” said study author Rachel K. Jones. “This study shows that there are other important health reasons why oral contraceptives should be readily available to the millions of women who rely on them each year.”

Through the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration announced it was requiring health care insurers to cover contraception services without any co-payments. For many women, steep co-pays have deterred them from purchasing family planning services in the past, a problem that has been exacerbated by the country’s economic troubles.

A recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll conducted by Public Opinion and Survey Research Program showed that two-thirds of Americans agree with the federal government’s recent decision to include birth control in its list of preventive services.

However, anti-abortion groups (mostly Catholic) have tried to block the implementation of this new mandate. There was a recent congressional hearing held to discuss the effect the new requirement would have on religious groups.

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