Thursday, 11 June 2015

Attitudes towards long-acting reversible contraception among Australian women and men

Dr Sara Holton from SPHPM’s Jean Hailes Research Unit has co-authored a publication with researchers from Monash University, Melbourne IVF, Family Planning Victoria, The Royal Women’s Hospital and the Victorian Department of Health investigating awareness, perceived reliability and consideration of use of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) among Australians of reproductive age.

Contraception is widely used in Australia with the oral contraceptive pill and condoms being the most commonly used methods. Modern LARC methods such as the IUD and implants have been available in Australia for over a decade. Yet few (less than 3 per cent) women in Australia use these methods despite LARC being a highly effective method of contraception and suitable for most women.

The researchers surveyed 2235 women and men aged 18-50 years who were randomly selected from the Australian Electoral role as part of the Understanding fertility management in contemporary Australia study, to determine their awareness of LARC and the factors related to whether or not they perceived LARC to be a reliable method of contraception and if they would consider using it.  

Only respondents who reported that it was important for them to avoid pregnancy were included in the analyses.

Dr Holton said that most respondents had heard of implants and IUDs. However, most did not think these LARC methods were reliable and would not consider using them.

“More women than men had heard of implants and IUDs, and women were more likely than men to regard both methods as reliable. Women were also more likely than men to consider using an IUD but a similar proportion of women and men would consider the use of an implant,” she said.

When asked about their use of LARC, less than 8 per cent of respondents stated that they (or their partner) were currently using an IUD and less than 5 per cent an implant.

The perception of LARC as reliable and whether it would be considered for use was found to be associated with certain respondent characteristics. Those who were younger, had ever been pregnant, had had an abortion, had private health insurance and did not consider religion important in their fertility choices were more likely to consider the use of LARC and perceive them as reliable.

“Many respondents indicated that they were unsure about the reliability of LARC and did not know whether they would consider its use,” Dr Holton said.

This may reflect misperceptions about its use, including that it should not be used by young women, women who have not had children, women who are breastfeeding and women who have a chronic health condition.

“The results of this study indicate that many people in Australia may be deterred from using LARC by misperceptions or lack of knowledge about its reliability, and suggest that there may be potential benefits from promoting LARC to certain population groups.

“This would help to ensure that a person’s choice of contraceptive method is based on accurate information and takes into account her or his priorities, needs and preferences, thus increasing their ability to plan pregnancies,” Dr Holton said.

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