Provider-based barriers to provision of intrauterine contraception in general practice

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Abstract

Objectives

Intrauterine contraception (IUC) is highly effective, safe and long-lasting, but is not a popular method of contraception among British women. This study examined barriers to the uptake of IUC in general practice in England.

Method

A sequential mixed-method approach to explore the views of practitioners regarding the provision of IUC. We e-surveyed 208 practitioners from 69 practices in a region of England and subsequently interviewed 14 practitioners from eight practices.

Results

Just under half of general practitioners (GPs) (46.8%; 58/124), and only 8.2% (4/49) of nurses reported being trained to fit IUC. Lack of knowledge of IUC was a barrier to fitting, and also to recommending IUC, especially by practitioners who were not trained to fit. There was discordance between reported knowledge of eligibility for IUC and the likelihood of recommending IUC. Respondents were less likely to recommend IUC to young, nulliparous women, women who had experienced a previous ectopic pregnancy, a recent sexually transmitted infection (STI), or an abnormal cervical smear. The qualitative data indicate that risk aversion and limited training, together with practitioners’ assessments that women are uninterested, may lead to IUC being precluded as a suitable method.

Conclusions

Increased practitioner education, for those not trained to fit IUC, may remove a barrier to the uptake of IUC in general practice. More research is required on the discordance between the practitioners’ views on the characteristics of women considered suitable for IUC, and the criteria set out in the UK Medical Eligibility Criteria (UKMEC) guidelines.

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