J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care 2014 Jan 24. doi: 10.1136/jfprhc-2013-100730

Contraceptive use among women presenting to pharmacies for emergency contraception: an opportunity for intervention

Michie L, Cameron ST, Glasier A and Greed E


Objective: Most women who use emergency contraception (EC) do so because of unprotected sexual intercourse or condom failure and so remain at risk of pregnancy unless they commence an effective method of contraception. In Great Britain, increasingly women now choose to obtain EC from a pharmacy; however, pharmacists do not currently provide effective ongoing contraception.

Methods: Self-administered, anonymous questionnaires of (1) women requesting EC from pharmacies in Edinburgh, Scotland and (2) SRH [sexual and reproductive health] clinicians attending a major UK scientific meeting.

Results: A total of 211/232 women completed questionnaires in pharmacies (a 91% response rate). Of those women not using a hormonal method of contraception at the time of EC (n = 166; 79%), almost half (44%) wished to use an effective method. Most women (64%) agreed that the option of a pharmacist being able to supply a POP [progestogen-only pill] would have been helpful. Among the SRH clinicians, 110 completed questionnaires out of 150 distributed (a 73% response rate). The majority of respondents (92%) were positive about a pharmacist supplying a POP at the time of EC.

Conclusions: A reasonable proportion of women requesting EC would like to start using an effective contraceptive method. Both the women and the SRH clinicians we surveyed are positive about the option of a short supply of a POP being provided by the pharmacy in the UK together with EC.

Comment: This paper shows how a request for emergency contraception can be combined by the pharmacist with a month's supply of estrogen-free pills. This will encourage women to go to their physician for continuation of effective contraception. (Hans Vemer)