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Not all Bad: Rethinking Contraceptive Side Effects

Photo credit: Google Images

Post written by Tishina Okegbe, PhD, MPP, FHI 360

Some method-related side effects are unquestionably undesirable for users. But some methods have often underappreciated non-contraceptive health and lifestyle benefits. Globally, we need to do more to educate healthcare providers, as well as women, men, and youth, about these potential advantages. In addition, researchers and product developers can do more to design products with non-contraceptive attributes that will be acceptable–and even desirable–for users.

The blog series, entitled: “Not all Bad: Rethinking Contraceptive Side Effects,” includes posts from experts in a number of fields and explores contraceptive development that turns certain “side effects” (with negative connotations) into positive product attributes or “side benefits.”

In “Exploring Side Benefits of Modern Contraceptive Methods,” FHI 360’s Dr. Tishina Okegbe kicks off the series with a discussion of currently available modern contraceptive methods that offer non-contraceptive health benefits to users. These benefits can include a reduction in menstrual cramps, more regular and lighter menstrual cycles, and a reduced risk of cervical or uterine cancer.

Next, in “User Perspectives on Contraceptive Side Effects and Side Benefits," Dr. Rebecca Callahan of FHI 360 explores characteristics that make modern contraceptives more or less appealing to users.

In “What Do Men Have to Do With It?: Exploring Side Benefits of Male Contraceptive Methods,” Kathryn Carpenter, MPH, from the Male Contraceptive Initiative discusses potential side benefits that male contraceptive methods under development might offer.

Next, Amy Alspaugh, CNM, MSN, of Duke University and University of North Carolina, discusses why it is important for developers and researchers to consider contraceptive needs across a woman’s life cycle in "Contracepting at Midlife: Not Done Yet."

In "Are Contraceptives Good for Your Sex Life?", University of Wisconsin’s, Jenny Higgins, PhD, MPH, explores how regular contraceptive use can improve sexual satisfaction and pleasure for cisgender women.

Next, Megan Christofield of Jhpiego posits how we might take advantage of the blossoming field of precision medicine to "control" or predict contraceptive method side effects and/or side benefits in "Wave of the Future: Using Precision Medicine to Illuminate Side Benefits."

In "Rethinking the 'Side Benefits' of Contraceptives for Addressing Menstrual Disorders", FHI 360 interns Lillian Rountree and Margaret Gaw explore the possibilities and limits of using contraceptives to manage menstrual disorders and call on contraceptive researchers to use this side benefit as a potential starting point for developing more tailored treatment options.

Help spread the message

A new video, Exploring Potential "Side Benefits" of Contraceptive Methods, introduces the concept of non-contraceptive benefits of family planning and explores how governments and partners can help expand awareness of these contraceptive "side benefits." In addition, researchers and product developers can consider "side benefits" during the development process in order to design products with non-contraceptive attributes that will be acceptable–and even desirable–for users. The video is also available in French, Spanish and Portuguese. It was developed by Knowledge SUCCESS, Envision FP, and the Contraceptive Technology Innovation (CTI) Exchange.

Join the conversation

You can also join the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn. Help us change the conversation by creating a post that explains your favorite #FPSideBenefit or your idea for a new/improved #FPSideBenefit. Use the hashtag #FPSideBenefit and post to Twitter or LinkedIn tagging @ctiexchange.

We are also still accepting contributions to the blog series; email us at if you are interested in writing a blog for the series.



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