Contraception Initiation in the Emergency Department: A Pilot Study on Providers’ Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices

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Abstract

Objectives

Almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended; these pregnancies are associated with adverse outcomes. Many reproductive-age females seek care in the emergency department (ED), are at risk of pregnancy, and are amenable to contraceptive services in this setting. Through a pilot study, we sought to assess ED providers’ current practices; attitudes; and knowledge of emergency contraception (EC) and nonemergency contraception (non-EC), as well as barriers with respect to contraception initiation.

Methods

ED physicians and associate providers in Georgia were e-mailed a link to an anonymous Internet questionnaire using state professional databases and contacts. The questionnaire included Likert scales with multiple-choice questions to assess study objectives. Descriptive statistics were generated as well as univariate analyses using χ2 and Fisher exact tests.

Results

A total of 1232 providers were e-mailed, with 119 questionnaires completed. Participants were predominantly physicians (80%), men (59%), and individuals younger than 45 years (59%). Common practices were referrals (96%), EC prescriptions (77%), and non-EC prescriptions (40%). Common barriers were perceived as low likelihood for follow-up (63%), risk of complications (58%), and adverse effects (51%). More than 70% of participants correctly identified the highly effective contraceptive methods, 3% identified the correct maximum EC initiation time, and 42% correctly recognized pregnancy as a higher risk than hormonal contraception use for pulmonary embolism.

Conclusions

Most ED providers in this pilot study referred patients for contraception; however, there was no universal contraceptive counseling and management. Many ED providers in this study had an incorrect understanding of the efficacy, risks, and eligibility associated with contraceptive methods. This lack of understanding may affect patient access and be a barrier to patient care.

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