Multilevel Barriers to Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive Uptake: A Narrative Review

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Health promotion practice


Unintended pregnancies, which occur in almost half (45%) of all pregnancies in the United States, are associated with adverse health and social outcomes for the infant and the mother. The risk of unintended pregnancies is significantly reduced when women use long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), namely intrauterine devices and implants. Although LARCs are highly acceptable to women at risk of unintended pregnancies, barriers to accessing LARCs hinder its uptake. These barriers are greater among racial and socioeconomic lines and persist within and across the intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, and policy levels. A synthesis of these barriers is unavailable in the current literature but would be beneficial to health care providers of reproductive-aged women, clinical managers, and policymakers seeking to provide equitable reproductive health care services. The aim of this narrative review was to aggregate these complex and overlapping barriers into a concise document that examines: (a) patient, provider, clinic, and policy factors associated with LARC access among populations at risk of unintended pregnancy and (b) the clinical implications of mitigating these barriers to provide equitable reproductive health care services. This review outlines numerous barriers to LARC uptake across multiple levels and demonstrates that LARC uptake is possible when the woman is informed of her contraceptive choices and when financial and clinical barriers are minimized. Equitable reproductive health care services entail unbiased counseling, a full range of contraceptive options, and patient autonomy in contraceptive choice.

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