Most of the young men who say they know, or their last sexual partner used birth control and what kind it was, according to a recent U.S. study.
The results provide valuable information for programs designed to prevent the unplanned pregnancies that are aimed at young men, the researchers write in the American Journal of men’s Health.
“The scope of the study was simply to see if we could use young men report in the evaluation of the teen pregnancy prevention programs or other studies which are based on the young men of the report,” lead author Samantha Garbers told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
“But it also has consequences for the programming around communication skills around contraception for young men, such as the building of skills around the talk with new partners about contraception,” said Garbers, a researcher at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York.
In contrast to many other studies, Garbers said, in this case, the research team focused on how many young men were not able to answer the questions about their partner’s contraceptive use.
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“We were particularly interested in how many guys said that they do not know – and that is usually not reported when the results for written,” she said.
Garbers and her colleagues examined the data from the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth, a large study, that men and women of 14 to 44 years old.
The researchers analyzed responses of 2,238 men, of whom the last female sex partner was not someone they lived with or married, and who were not trying to get pregnant with a partner or a partner who was pregnant.
Approximately 85 percent of the men were never married and almost half of them are between 15 and 24.
The participants were asked, “the last time you have sexual intercourse with (most recent partner) did they make use of methods to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease?” Those who answered “yes” were then asked which methods their partner had used, and were displayed in a list of contraceptive methods to choose from.
“We were relieved to find that almost all the people of all age groups were able to answer the questions,” Garbers said. “In total, 95 percent were able to answer both questions, and this did not differ significantly in age groups.”
The study can only determine whether the men could answer the questions, but not if their answers were correct, Garbers noted.
About 17 percent of the men said no contraception is used in their last sexual encounter, and another 30 percent said they had used condoms, but their partner is not using contraception.
Race, ethnicity, education, even religious preferences don’t seem to be on the results, Garbers said, but what really mattered was the relationship between the man and his last partner.
“Boys, whose last sexual partner was a new partner, in the sense that they had not had sex with a partner who, prior to that meeting, were significantly more likely not to report whether their partner used a specific method,” she said.
Almost 12 percent of the participants whose last encounter was with a new partner, could not the report of her contraceptive use, compared with less than 4 percent of the men whose last partner was not new.
“This study highlights the importance of communication around the issue of birth control and safe sex in a relationship. Both a man and a woman to get pregnant, so both partners need to be aware of what they are doing to prevent pregnancy,” Dr. Rachel Weinerman told Reuters Health in an e-mail.
“It is reassuring to see that the vast majority of the men knew their partner’s contraceptive use,” said Weinerman, a reproductive endocrinologist at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood, Ohio, and UH Cleveland Medical Center, who is not involved in the research.
The findings also highlight how important it is to have a conversation about safe sex before the first sexual encounter, Weinerman said.
“Every relationship is different, but it need not be a long or difficult discussion. “What kind of birth control do you use?’ is a simple question that female partners should appreciate,” she said.