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Missing opportunities for preventing unwanted pregnancy: a qualitative study of emergency contraception.

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BMJ Publishing Group


BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY:High levels of unplanned pregnancy among young people are a huge public health problem in South Africa. However, use of emergency contraception (EC) remains low. Studies suggest that providers constitute an important link to increasing access to EC use. The aim of the study was to provide greater insights into the attitudes of providers towards EC in order to better understand factors influencing uptake. The study drew upon 30 in-depth interviews with providers at private and public health facilities in Durban, South Africa. RESULTS: The results of the study highlight several barriers to the provision of EC in both public and private health facilities. The cost of EC products in commercial pharmacies is likely to be a major barrier to use for many women. In addition, providers in both public and private facilities are often reluctant to provide EC over the counter because they feel that the use of EC is likely to discourage regular use of contraception and increase the risk of unprotected sexual intercourse and, as a result, contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. In addition, they reported that they do not have an opportunity to counsel women about EC because of time constraints. Providers in both the public and private sectors also demonstrated a level of uncertainty about the clinical effects of EC pills and on the regulations surrounding their provision. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Despite relatively progressive legislation on EC provision and the widespread availability of EC products in South Africa, providers in pharmacies, family planning clinics and public health clinics need more training on EC provision. Interventions should aim to educate health providers on both the clinical and social aspects of EC provision.


Accepted for publication to the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care 37(2):October 2010. doi: 10.1136/jfprhc.2011.0055.


Contraception, Postcoital--South Africa., Pregnancy, Unwanted--South Africa., Birth control--South Africa.


Maharaj P, Rogan M. J Fam Plann Reprod Health Care. 2011 Apr;37(2):89-96.