Strategies for preventing unintended pregnancy
Michie, Lucy Helen
In the United Kingdom (UK) there is easy access to a wide range of contraceptive methods, available at no cost. In addition, oral emergency contraception (EC) (1.5 mg levonorgestrel) is now widely available from the community pharmacy. In spite of this, unintended pregnancy is common. In 2014 in England and Wales, 184,571 induced abortions were performed, and in Scotland, the corresponding figure was 11,475. Long acting reversible methods such as contraceptive implants and intrauterine contraception, are amongst the most effective methods available and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that increased uptake can lead to fewer unintended pregnancies. However, uptake of long acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods remains low. The majority of women who require to use EC do so following unprotected sex or an accident with a condom. Increasingly women in Great Britain prefer to attend a pharmacy for EC rather than a sexual and reproductive health (SRH) service or general practitioner (GP). Starting an effective on-going method of contraception after EC use is clearly important if women are to avoid unintended pregnancy. Community pharmacists in the UK and most other high income countries are usually unable to provide any on-going contraception except condoms. So we have created a situation where EC is provided almost solely from settings where other more effective methods of contraception cannot be immediately provided. Novel strategies are therefore required to facilitate both uptake and continuation of the most effective methods of contraception, in order to prevent unintended pregnancy for more women. This thesis presents a mixture of biomedical, clinical and health services research to evaluate a series of strategies aimed at improving uptake of the most effective methods of contraception. Two studies investigated patient knowledge and information provision relating to contraceptive methods. The first sought to determine if women held misconceptions about intrauterine methods of contraception, and revealed that although myths persist in a small number of women, a lack of knowledge about these methods was also evident. The second study aimed to determine if the use of a digital video disc (DVD) to provide contraceptive information was acceptable and informative to women, and identified that it is, and could possibly enhance patient consultations. Studies three, four and five investigated strategies aimed at increasing the uptake of effective on-going contraception, following emergency contraception provided from a community pharmacy, and patient and health care provider attitudes to such approaches. They showed that simple interventions such as supplying one month of a progestogen only pill (POP), or offering rapid access to a family planning clinic (FPC), hold promise as strategies to increase the uptake of effective contraception after EC and that both women and clinicians were positive about such measures. Additionally, the problems encountered in conducting these studies provided valuable feedback to inform further development of research methods in the community pharmacy setting, and larger scale studies of such interventions. Community SRH services may be well placed to deliver more abortion care in the UK, and consequently this may result in greater uptake of contraception post abortion. Study six aimed to determine the views of health professionals working in SRH regarding their attitudes towards providing more abortion services and also the views of staff within one community SRH centre in Scotland where a service providing early medical abortion was due to commence. It showed there is clear support amongst health professionals in community SRH in the UK towards greater participation in provision of abortion care services.