Impact on Contraceptive Practice of Making Emergency Hormonal Contraception Available Over the Counter in Great Britain: Repeated Cross Sectional Surveys
BMJ: British Medical Journal 2005 July 30; 331(7511): 271-273
OBJECTIVE: To examine the impact on contraceptive practice of making emergency hormonal contraception available over the counter. DESIGN: Analysis of data on contraceptive practice for women aged 16-49 years in the period 2000-2 from the Omnibus Survey, a multipurpose survey in which around 7600 adults living in private households are interviewed each year. SETTING: Private households in Great Britain. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Use of different types of contraception and rates of unprotected sex. RESULTS: After emergency hormonal contraception was made available over the counter, levels of use of different types of contraception by women aged 16-49 remained similar. No significant change occurred in the proportion of women using emergency hormonal contraception (8.4% in 2000, 7.9% in 2001, 7.2% in 2002) or having unprotected sex. A change did, however, occur in where women obtained emergency hormonal contraception; a smaller proportion of women obtained emergency hormonal contraception from physicians and a greater proportion bought it over the counter. No significant change occurred in the proportion of women using more reliable methods of contraception, such as the oral contraceptive pill, or in the proportion of women using emergency hormonal contraception more than once during a year. CONCLUSIONS: Making emergency hormonal contraception available over the counter does not seem to have led to an increase in its use, to an increase in unprotected sex, or to a decrease in the use of more reliable methods of contraception.
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