Emergency contraception in Australia: The desired source of information versus the actual source of information
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Objective: To determine long-term trends in emergency contraception (EC) management by general practitioners in Australia. Design, setting and participants: Data from April 2000 to March 2012 were drawn from the BEACH (Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health) program, a continuous cross-sectional survey of GP activity. We analysed consultations involving EC management, unwanted pregnancy management and emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) prescribing per 1000 GP encounters with women aged 14-54 years. Summary statistics were calculated with 95% confidence intervals. Results: In 2000-2001, GPs managed EC problems at a rate of 5.50 per 1000 encounters (95% CI, 4.37-6.63). From 2004, after the ECP became available over the counter (OTC) in pharmacies, EC management, which includes ECP prescription, progressively declined. By 2011-2012, only 1.43 EC problems were managed per 1000 encounters (95% CI, 0.84-2.02) and only 0.48 ECP prescriptions were provided per 1000 encounters (95% CI, 0.14-0.82). Yet the management rate of unwanted pregnancy problems stayed relatively constant (rate in 2000-2001, 0.95 per 1000 encounters; 95% CI, 0.40-1.50; rate in 2011-2012, 0.88 per 1000 encounters; 95% CI, 0.41-1.36). Conclusion: Low rates of EC management by GPs since ECP became available OTC suggest that women may be obtaining information on EC elsewhere. Further investigation is needed to uncover the sources of this information and its acceptability and application by Australian women.
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