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Even in 2020, Men Still Know Little about Birth Control

Even in 2020, Men Still Know Little about Birth Control

Last year was a tough year for women’s health care at the legislative level. There were a lot of attempts to limit women’s choice, and there are still pending lawsuits that will decide the future of women’s reproductive rights in this country.

When it comes to reproductive health, Pill Club believes that it’s equally important for men to be informed. And that’s even more true now that access to contraception and women’s health services are on the line. 

How much do men in heterosexual relationships know about birth control? Do they talk about birth control options with their partner? And what, if any, are some common misconceptions that might hold them back from taking a more active role in making joint decisions with their partner?

We posed these questions to 1,000 participants across the country to find out (the survey was conducted online with Ask Your Target Market). The result? For the most part, men are still in the dark when it comes to understanding female reproductive health and birth control. In fact, 1 in 3 men even think taking emergency contraception is the same as having an abortion. What’s more, many men don’t proactively talk about birth control with their partner before having sex with them for the first time.

1 in 3 men even think taking emergency contraception is the same as having an abortion.

Here’s a closer look at the rest of our findings from the survey:

For many men, female birth control is still a total mystery:

  • 52% of men either don’t think women need a prescription for birth control pills or don’t know.
  • About 30% of men aren’t familiar with IUDs or female condoms.
  • 40% either think birth control pills are 100% effective or don’t know.

While most men don’t assume that women are on birth control, they also don’t ask:

  • Only around 1 in 5 men assume or expect that all sexually active women are on birth control.
  • Almost 30% of men don’t talk about forms of birth control with their partner before engaging in sexual intercourse (38% always discuss it, and 33% only discuss it sometimes). 
  • 41.8% of men have had a pregnancy “scare” with a partner.
    • Surprisingly, more married people (48.8%) have had pregnancy scares than single men (28.5%)
  • 62% of men who have had a pregnancy “scare” were not using a condom, and 53% did not know if their partner was using birth control before having sex.

If there was a daily birth control pill for men, most wouldn’t take it or don’t know if they would, because they don’t want it “affecting their body”:

  • 63% of men said that if there was a daily birth control pill for men (similar to the pill for women), they either wouldn’t take it or didn’t know if they would take it. 
  • Nearly 40% of men who responded that they wouldn’t take a daily birth control pill said it was because they didn’t want it affecting their body. 

The need is clear. Parents and teachers need to educate men on birth control options, especially when they’re in their teens:

  • About 50% of men either learned about birth control from a parent or teacher while 12% learned from a girlfriend or significant other.
  • 45% of men first learned about birth control when they were teenagers (15-18), 27% were younger (before 14) and 11% were older (19-30).
  • Men ages 18-24 are most likely to have learned about birth control from the internet (versus a parent, relative, teacher, girlfriend or doctor) and are at risk to obtain misinformation.
    • More than 2x as likely to learn from the internet (27.5%) than a doctor (12%)
    • More than 3x as likely to learn from the internet  (27.5%) than a parent (8.3%)

When you consider that half of the men surveyed learned about birth control from a parent or teacher, it’s hard to blame them for knowing so little about reproductive health. While we can’t turn back the clock to their high school sex-ed class, we can bring them into conversations about birth control—everything from how the pill affects your mood, to side effects that you experience, to why you have an alarm that goes off at the same time each day. Without extensive resources or better approaches to sex education, talking openly about birth control—and more importantly, why having access to it matters—is the only way that we can bridge the knowledge gap for men.

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