U.S. teenage women consistently choose oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) as one of their first methods of birth control. Despite the existence of long-acting contraception methods, teens consistently start by using less reliable forms of contraception: withdrawal, condoms and OCPs, which put this vulnerable population at higher rates of unintended pregnancy. In order for OCPs to be effective, women need to take them around the same time each day. And while it shouldn’t be difficult to remember to take one pill a day, at least 80% of women do not take all of their pills each month within a 24-hour window due to forgetfulness, disruptions in their schedule and stress. Inconsistency in medication adherence leads to significantly decreased pill effectiveness and high rates of unintended teenage pregnancies. In fact, teenage childbearing costs U.S. taxpayers between $9.4 and $28 billion per year through public assistance payments, lost tax revenue, and greater expenditures for public health care, foster care, and criminal justice services. While these costs are substantial, they ignore the significant individual, psychological, and educational productivity costs associated with unplanned pregnancy. The impact on future generations is also substantial - with children born to adolescents experiencing poorer educational, behavioral and health outcomes.
Despite the existence of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) (e.g. IUD, Implant etc.) very few sexually active teenagers use them. While efforts have targeted educating teens about LARC, there are several reasons for their low adoption rates in this population including: limited accessibility, cost, lack of education, perpetuated myths & misinformation, pelvic exam requirement, peer’s contraception preference and social stigma.
The focus of this effort is on teenagers, as they are the population for which an unplanned pregnancy would arguably have the largest impact. The project goal is to make OCPs just as effective as LARC by bringing a digital health solution incorporating proven behavioral modification methods to tech-oriented teens.
Cadence’s product was designed to decrease the incidence of unplanned teenage pregnancy. Cadence aims to improve oral contraceptive pills (OCP) medication adherence, provides education on contraception, and personalized pregnancy risk. The interface provides feedback on potential consequences of one’s pill taking behavior by indicating when women are at risk of pregnancy and when they should use backup contraception.
APDC will provide funds for continued product development, to refine design inputs from user testing, and to demonstrate a beta system.