Puts it all in perspective doesn't it...

Putting reproductive risks in perspective Issue 10: 8 May 2006
Source: Contraception 2006; 73: 437-9

A new editorial has highlighted the importance of putting reproductive health risks into the correct perspective in discussions with women about contraception.

The US authors, from Princeton University’s Office of Population Research and from the Washington-based Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, say this is necessary in order to counter the often dramatic and sensationalized headlines about women’s health in the media.

In their editorial for the latest issue of the journal Contraception, the authors write: “As sensationalized news reporting becomes more common, and thoughtful analysis becomes more difficult to find, given its perceived lack of appeal to media observers, healthcare practitioners must intensify efforts fully and repeatedly to inform patients of their true risks of death from various contraceptive methods.”

They say that “alarmist, misleading, inaccurate or incomplete” media coverage of health risks is a source of confusion to women. In the editorial, the authors provide a brief summary of the mortality risks associated with pregnancy, combined oral contraceptives, the contraceptive patch, and abortion.

This summary includes a detailed table of published mortality risks associated with everyday activities.

For example, the authors cite data suggesting that the overall risk of death from pregnancy and delivery is about 1 in 8,700.

They point out that this risk is lower than the annual risk of death from a vehicle accident (1 in 5,000), but is much higher than the annual risk of death from use of combined oral contraceptives for most women (mortality risks ranging from 1 in 33,300 to 1 in 1,667,000 depending on age and smoking status) except those aged 35-44 years who also smoke (a mortality risk of 1 in 5,200).

The authors conclude that women are far more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications, from vehicle accidents, or from a fall (annual mortality risk 1 in 20,000), than they are from using hormonal contraception, for example.

They add: “Those who claim that hormonal contraception and abortion are unsafe base this assertion on ideology, not evidence-based science.”