Feds Spend $347,176 Studying If Sex Is Good With Contraception

Researchers want to help women 'fully realize the social, economic' benefits of not having kids

Getty Images
June 6, 2018

The National Institutes of Health is spending roughly $350,000 to study what methods of contraception are "sexually acceptable" to women.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison study aims for more women to use birth control so they can "fully realize the social, economic, and health benefits" of not having children.

The researchers will follow women using birth control for a year, hoping to discover which contraception method women like best while having sex.

"High rates of contraceptive dissatisfaction, switching, and discontinuation in the U.S. demand new approaches to contraceptive acceptability and promotion," according to the grant for the project. "Behavioral models of contraceptive use have failed to address sexuality, even though contraception is designed for sexual activity."

"By following new contraceptive users across 12 months, this study will 1) document sexual acceptability for a variety of contraceptive methods, 2) determine associations between sexual acceptability and continuation over time, and 3) set the stage for the creation of new, more valid sexuality measures to be used in future reproductive health research and interventions," the grant states.

The goal of the study is to match women with the method "they will find the most sexually acceptable."

"The proposal catalyzes a patient-centered approach to contraception that has the potential to improve women's experiences with their methods," the grant states. "Research from this program could ultimately be used to help match women with the method(s) they will find the most sexually acceptable—methods they will like and use—thereby helping women fully realize the social, economic, and health benefits of contraception."

The study, which began last fall, has received $347,176 from taxpayers so far. Research will continue through March 2021.

The leading researcher on the project is Jenny Higgins, an associate professor in the Gender and Women's Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Higgins specializes in "mixed-methods research on sexuality, gender, and reproductive health—especially people's use of condoms and other contraceptive methods."

Higgins is also currently involved with research into sexual minority women, or "people who identify as lesbian, bisexual and queer (among many other things)." She claims 20 percent of the female population in the United States are lesbians or bisexual.

"The overwhelming majority of SMW [sexual minority women] will engage penile-vaginal intercourse at least occasionally," according to the researcher's website. "New research suggests that SMW women have an increased risk of unintended pregnancy compared to their heterosexual peers."

The study is examining "unique barriers" lesbians and bisexuals have to "adequate contraceptive care."