Adolescent girls who use hormonal contraceptive birth control, stop using condoms as often as they would have before, a finding seen in an alarming new study, conducted by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine. Researchers claim that when these young women stop taking their pills, they do not resume the use of condoms, which can result in the sexually transmitted infections, (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy.

The trial involved 1,194 young, sexually active girls between the ages of 15 and 24 who were going to Planned Parenthood clinics to start with contraceptive pills, injections, patches, or vaginal rings. All of these women were not planning to get pregnant within a year’s time.

Data was gathered in regards to how the women felt about condoms and what they thought their sexual partners’ beliefs were.

At the start of the trial, 36% of the girls reported using condoms on a regular basis. This usage was reduced to 27% within 3 months. During the year, some of the young women involved in the study stopped taking their hormonal contraception pills. Over 50% of these women said that they did not begin using condoms again after they stopped taking the contraceptives, said Rachel Goldstein, lead author of the study.

When condoms are used in combination contraceptive methods, the risk of pregnancy and STDs is significantly lower. Goldstein explained that the most influential factor for condom use is how the woman’s sexual partner feels about them.

If the young women said that their partner believed condom use was “very important” or did not know what their partner’s beliefs were towards condoms, they were more apt to use the “dual method” than those whose partners thought condoms were “not at all important”.

Goldstein continued:

“It appears that her partner’s feelings may be more important than her perceived risk of a sexually transmitted infection on her own beliefs about dual method use.”

This highlights the fact that women’s behavior in terms of preventing STIs and unwanted pregnancy may be due more to how their partners feel than their own feelings.

“Although a woman feels like she is at risk for an STI, she may not be able to advocate for herself and successfully negotiate condom use with her partner,” explained Goldstein.

When hormonal contraceptive use is stopped, unwanted pregnancy may occur, therefore it may be beneficial for young women to use longer lasting, reversible, methods of birth control, such as IUDs and implants.

According to Mark Nichols, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, the study did not examine IUDs or implants, which are effective methods of preventing pregnancy for years at a time. They are becoming more and more popular and are doctor recommended for young women who are now starting to use contraception.

The authors determined more counseling is needed to improve condom use, but it did not reveal which types of couseling the women received when they were at the clinics.

Written by Christine Kearney