Contraception and Advertising: Friends or Foes?

Following our article about health and wellness product advertising, we wanted to delve more into the sphere of restrictions in marketing. In this ...
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Following our article about health and wellness product advertising, we wanted to delve more into the sphere of restrictions in marketing. In this article, we'll analyze the state of contraception and advertising in the world. 

The common question of whether to allow the marketing of birth control arose again recently when a Swedish fertility-tracking app advertised on social media. It was made to prevent unwanted pregnancies or to get pregnant faster by alerting women when they have their fertile and infertile days. Swedish media went on with promoting it immediately, while the FDA had concerns about it and postponed the approval until 2018, two years after its first release.

The digital contraceptive app is still a somewhat controversial topic among researchers, and the promotion of the app was later banned on Facebook. However, the country showed a tendency towards marketing contraception instead of promoting abstinence.

The State of Available Contraceptives Today

The most common birth control in the U.S., in South America, and throughout Asia today is female sterilization, while women who live in Europe and Oceania prefer the pill. 

contraceptive methods by continent

If we look at the total stats on the use of contraception, we can see that female sterilization is the most popular method in the world. Now, the main questions are: How safe are the most popular methods of birth control and is there a need to promote them in the media?

contraceptive use around the world

Female sterilization, or tubal litigation, as any other medical procedure has certain health risks. Moreover, it's a permanent method of birth control, meaning a woman can't get pregnant once she underwent surgery. On the other hand, a male sterilization process, or vasectomy is a more effortless procedure and is partially reversible.

The second most frequent contraception method, IUD (Intrauterine device), is a safe contraception method. However, some risks and complications could arise with its use, such as perforation, infection, or expulsion.

Third, there's the famous pill, which has to be taken daily to prevent ovulation in females. Although it isn't practical for everyone, and it can cause serious side effects for women over 35 and women with health problems, numerous couples around the world use it as their go-to birth control. Moreover, some use it as a medicine to treat conditions such as endometriosis.

Lastly, condoms take fourth place with 7.7% of total contraceptive use worldwide. They're one of the safest methods of birth control with no adverse side effects. As a plus, you don't need any particular medical prescription to buy condoms. But compared to other contraception methods, the advantages of this birth prevention are still underestimated. 

Do Contraception and Advertising Go Well Together?

Pakistan banned contraceptive advertising on television and radio in 2016 because the government feared it would expose children to sex. Pakistani news agency PEMRA stated that the ban was being introduced in response to parents' objections, and it applies to all contraception and family planning methods.

Despite the backlash from foreign media on the mentioned news, most media outlets worldwide tend to forget the state of contraception advertising in their own country. According to an article in SIECUS report from 1985, "in the U.S., all national broadcast networks refuse to accept ads for contraceptive products." The situation is a bit different today, with more relaxed policies in media outlets and on the internet. For example, as stated in Facebook Advertising Policy, you can market contraceptives if the ads "focus on the contraceptive features of the product."

The same goes for most countries in Europe. The U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) approves every ad that's not "excessively explicit about sexual activity." They state in their Advice online page that "ads for condom accessories such as massage mousse and 'orgasmic gel,' which made claims such as "Let's hear you scream" and "Make some noise for the boys," were considered acceptable because they were not sexually explicit."

Swedish contraception brand went even further and illustrated how a woman could react to a pregnancy test. It gives a realistic depiction of what can happen, which, from a marketing perspective, isn't always profitable, but provides full transparency on the topic.

Nevertheless, even with all the liberal laws out there, health and wellness products still face a ban on promoting contraception for pleasure. As every piece of content that gets published, contraception advertisement should have balance. The Swedish and the U.K. examples point out the necessity of contraceptive product advertising worldwide.

Why It Is Essential to Advertise Contraceptive Methods

Advertising has enormous effects on our thinking and our awareness of specific issues in society. 

When the information comes directly from the media, it becomes less taboo, and people are more open to discussing it. The media has the power to communicate the knowledge and attitudes about contraception so that people would search less about sex from unreliable sources (among peers or online). 

Early-risk sexual behaviors are often a reflection of the need to experiment, explore our changes, and the feelings that occur when entering puberty. However, these behaviors can have detrimental short- and long-term consequences such as sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies, and so forth. 

Untreated sexually transmitted infections can lead to long-lasting consequences and various health complications. Some of these diseases can have implications on our fertility, that is, cause difficult conception and risky pregnancy. Some studies show that teenage pregnancies are higher where there's less sexual health content in the education system and the media.

It is necessary to inform people about the contraceptive choices they have and how to care about their sexual and reproductive health from reliable sources. By advertising, we can significantly reduce the number of sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies, or other unintended consequences of sexual intercourse. It is crucial, especially for young people, to know how to stay healthy and safe once they enter their reproductive age.

Lastly, features of contraceptive products are essential for the user. Nonetheless, more significant is to encourage contraception use globally. By explaining all the pleasurable benefits that contraception might have, people would want to use it more. The one-dimensional rules of contraception advertising would then change and raise awareness of the subject all the while saving people's health. 


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