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Contraceptive use and the risk of sexually transmitted infection: systematic review and current perspectives

Authors Deese J, Pradhan S, Goetz H, Morrison C

Received 16 May 2018

Accepted for publication 28 August 2018

Published 12 November 2018 Volume 2018:9 Pages 91—112

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/OAJC.S135439

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Professor Igal Wolman


Jennifer Deese, Subarna Pradhan, Hannah Goetz, Charles Morrison

Global Health, Population and Nutrition, FHI 360, Durham, NC, USA

Purpose: Evidence on the association between contraceptive use and risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and bacterial vaginosis (BV) is lacking, with few prospective ­studies. We systematically reviewed the last 10 years’ evidence on the association between ­contraception and STI/BV, building on the most recent systematic reviews published in 2006 and 2009.
Methods: We searched the MEDLINE and POPLINE databases for peer-reviewed articles p­ublished between January 1, 2008 and January 31, 2018 reporting prospective studies that assessed the association between contraceptive use and incident STI and/or incident or recurrent BV.
Results: We identified 33 articles that evaluated combined oral contraceptives (COC), depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), the copper intrauterine device (Cu-IUD), the levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG-IUS) and other methods. The strength of the evidence for many specific contraceptive method/STI associations is limited by few prospective studies with comparably defined exposures and outcomes. Available data suggest no association of COCs and Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Trichomonas vaginalis, HSV-2 or syphilis, and mixed evidence on the association with HPV, Chlamydia trachomatis, and BV. For DMPA, none of the studies identified found an association with N. gonorrhoeae or syphilis, and data on C. trachomatis, T. vaginalis, HPV and BV were mixed. Two large studies showed a highly clinically significant increased risk of HSV-2 infection with DMPA use. Data on the effect of Cu-IUD and the LNG-IUS on the acquisition of C. trachomatis, N. gonorrhoeae and T. vaginalis are sparse, and data on HPV and BV are mixed.
Conclusion: Few data are available from prospective studies, including randomized trials, to draw strong conclusions about the relationships between contraceptive methods and specific STIs. The overall evidence on the association between contraceptive use and STI/BV risk is limited by the lack of any randomized trials, few published prospective studies designed to analyze these associations, wide variability in exposure definitions and comparator groups, potential for confounding due to inaccurate sexual behavior data, differential confounder adjustment and differences in study populations and sizes. Despite these limitations, new evidence is supportive of a significantly increased risk of HSV-2 infection among DMPA users which warrants additional research to better understand this association.

Keywords: combined oral contraceptives, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate, intrauterine device, intrauterine system, sexually transmitted infections, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomonas, herpes simplex virus, bacterial vaginosis

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