The French pill scare and the reshaping of social inequalities in access to medical contraceptives

for the Health Barometer group 2016

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While the consequences of various “pill scares” have been relatively well-documented in the public health literature revealing a drop in pill use and a rise in unplanned pregnancies and abortion rates, researchers rarely considered that these controversies would affect women contraceptive practices differently according to their social background. Indeed, social differentiations in reaction to “pill scares” could contribute to reinforce the social gradient in the use of contraceptive methods and choice of visiting the health professionals who prescribe them. These could contribute to an increase in health inequalities on access to contraceptive methods. Using data from three state nationally representative cross-sectional surveys conducted in France in 2010, 2013 and 2016, we studied the changes in women's contraceptive uses around the French “pill scare” that occurred in 2012–2013. We focused on the changes in the use of all contraceptives available under medical prescription (called medical contraceptives) on one hand, and on each specific method (pill, IUD, implant, patch or vaginal ring, and female sterilization) on the other hand according to the women's social background. We saw a social gradient in contraceptives changes. The decline in the use of contraceptive methods available under medical prescription was particularly marked for women from lower and higher classes in which we observe a decrease in pill use between 2010 and 2013, whereas it was observed only between 2013 and 2016 among middle class women. Moreover, while some women from upper class shifted from pill to IUD between 2010 and 2013, this was not the case for their less privileged counterparts. As a consequence, it seems that the French “pill scare” led to the reshaping of social inequalities in access to medical contraceptives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100606
JournalSSM - Population Health
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Contraceptive use
  • Female sterilization
  • IUD
  • Pill
  • Pill scare
  • Social inequalities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The French pill scare and the reshaping of social inequalities in access to medical contraceptives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this