Women who are finding expanded opportunity in the U.S. military face obstacles in access to contraceptives during overseas deployment, according to a report in Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit national health news service.
The report noted that next year’s end of restrictions on women in combat could make women newly eligible for as many as 245,000 jobs. Currently, 15% of active duty service members are women, and 97% of those women are of childbearing age.
High rate of unintended pregnancy
Women in the military have rates of unintended pregnancy that are 50% higher than in the general population, the report said. Their insurance covers most kinds of contraception. However, the report said, not all forms of contraception are available at every military hospital and clinic. And there are special challenges to using contraceptives while on deployment overseas. Scheduling a daily birth control pill can be difficult when crossing time zones and desert conditions may make a contraceptive patch fall off, the report said. Refills of specific pills may not be available.
In a report published in 2012 in Contraception, women said they were told contraceptives were unnecessary because having sex during deployment was forbidden or that they couldn’t receive an intrauterine device because they hadn’t yet given birth. Neither of those claims is true, according the Kaiser Health News article. The majority of women surveyed also said they weren’t counseled about using contraception for either pregnancy prevention or menstrual suppression before deploying.
“It is unfortunate that here we have the military, that has one of the best healthcare systems in the country, and where we still have a gap is in contraception,” Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, said in the report.
Kaiser Health News cited a 2013 study based on more than 28,000 responses to the 2008 Department of Defense health-related behaviors survey, in which researchers found that after adjusting for the larger concentration of young women in the military, the rate of unintended pregnancy among military women was 7.8%, compared with 5.2% among women in the general population.
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