Impact on contraceptive practice of making emergency hormonal contraception available over the counter in Great Britain: repeated cross sectional surveysBMJ 2005; 331 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.38519.440266.8F (Published 28 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:271
- Cicely Marston ( )(), lecturer in social science and public health1,
- Howard Meltzer, senior scientist2,
- Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care1
- 1 Department of Primary Care and Social Medicine, Imperial College Faculty of Medicine, London W6 8RP
- 2 Office for National Statistics, London SW1V 2QQ
- Correspondence to: C Marston (from 1 October:)
- Accepted 8 June 2005
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.
We thank Tania Misra for her help in obtaining the data and Emma Slaymaker for statistical advice.
Contributors CM was responsible for analysing the data, doing the literature review, and writing the paper. She is the guarantor. HM was responsible for overseeing the management of the survey under the auspices of the UK Office for National Statistics, helped in the extraction of the data, and provided advice on the analysis. AM developed the idea for the study, helped with the review of the literature, advised on the analysis, and helped in the drafting of the paper.
Funding The Omnibus Survey is funded by the UK Office for National Statistics.
Conflict of interest None declared
Ethical approval Not needed.
- Accepted 8 June 2005