Poster: Mothers matter

Since the 1980s, the role of contraceptives has been a key element of the controversy over family planning initiatives.
Are they the technological fix to solve the pressing issues linked to the rapid population growth and high fertility of developing countries?
While it has almost always been clear that modern and safe contraceptive methods could indeed help improve women’s and children’s health by reducing the number of high-risk births, it took more than a while for donors and governments to understand the importance of the qualitative context of women’s lives in family planning programs.
Women’s health advocates have contributed greatly to the evolution of these programs by urging more emphasis to the broader context of women’s lives and the quality of care itself. They made it clear that new methods alone cannot eliminate unmet needs: an integrated approach is needed when tackling complex social and medical issues of this kind.
Sadly, today like back then, women still face all manner of barriers to modern method use, from access issues and misinformation to inequities in social and sexual relationships.
Helping women obtain and use modern contraceptive methods successfully is critical to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other targets for improving health and reducing poverty.
In our visual analysis we highlighted the peculiar situation of three focus areas, Sub-Saharian Africa, South East Asia, and South Central Asia. Together, these three zones contain about half of the women in the planet and almost the totality of maternal deaths.
One of the most surprising findings was that, in this three areas, the most common reason for unmet needs are linked to the contraceptive method itself and to its side effects, rather than to the lack of access to modern contraception care. This shows the serious need of an improved communication from the healthcare providers and, as well, the key importance of scientific research in delivering safer and more effective contraceptive methods.

Mothers matter

Report: The Pill

The combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), most commonly referred to as “the pill”, is a birth control method that, through the combined action of two hormones (an estrogen and a progestogens) inhibits female fertility.
Available in the United States since the early 1960s, contraceptive pills are one of the most popular and effective methods of birth control, and are today used by more than 100 million women worldwide. However, the entity and the variety of their side effects is still a complex subject of discussion within the medical community and everyday users. “Does the pill increase the risk of breast cancer? Is it safe for smokers, diabetics and obese women? What is it’s relationship with ovarian cancer?”
The internet pullulates with biased, contrasting and incomplete information about these and other subjects, making it hard for women to make a conscious and informed choice on the topic.
We thought such a controversial and discussed topic would be a good fit for working with Digital Methods and in particular with text mining and semantic analysis, providing us with both qualitative and quantitative insights on the subject.
We decided to carry out our research on this particular topic in the hope of untangling some of its most controversial points.
In the first part of the report we mapped the debate about the side effects of the pill on a global scale, with the objective of finding out what kind of information is available online and who is talking about its risks and benefits, and in what ratio.
In the second part of the report we investigated how this discussion is influencing the usage rate of the pill in three different European countries with very different percentages of adoption: Italy, Portugal and Spain.
The outcomes of our research suggest the existence of a certain link between the two phenomena, (…) but we have to acknowledge that, with the only use of Digital Methods, it is hard to give a precise and univocal answer to our original question.
The choice of contraception is a complex decision-making process that is influenced by a woman’s contraceptive goals, methods’ availability, education and personal beliefs. The information available on the internet can only contributes in shaping a woman’s ideas and convictions partially.
We believe though that this influence is subject to an exponential growth with time, and thus justifies the points we made in our report, and the research methods we used.
While it is hard to estabilish the exact nature of the link between discussion and adoption rate, its existance is undeniable, and we believe further studies on this subject are worth to be pursued, and may be very useful for all the stakeholders involved in the debate.

Tablet application: The Pill App

The Pill app was designed as interactive tool to explore the content of the research we carried on about the link between the online discussion about the side effects of oral contraceptives and their adoption rate in different european countries.
The app was beta-developed in Processing for an Android Tablet.

Choosing the right contraceptive method is not always easy.
Us women often need more information
Some of us… ask our doctors, others… look it up on Google!

As you might have noticed though, looking up medical advice on the internet can often bring to some funny results. There is lot of information on the web, and it is just as close as a click of the mouse.
But how can you know which of these sources are reliable and trustworthy?
“The Pill app” – acts as a guide to the online discussion about side effects of oral contraceptives.
It helps you to understand how the conversation can change according to the kind of website you are consulting, and to the place you are living in.
What are the most discussed side effects in Italy?
How are news media talking about the Pill in Spain?
It’s completely fine to google your meds.
Just mind your sources, and decide consciously who to trust.


Guttmacher Institute
World Health Organization


Alessandro Cerruti
Andrea Cevenini
Marta Croce
Miriam Palopoli
Dario Verrengia