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Coil or intrauterine device? Patient preferences for contraceptive terminology
  1. Nicola Mullin, DEFFP, MRCOG, Clinical Lecturer in Family Planning,
  2. Kathryn Mills, Fourth Year Medical Student and
  3. Rosemary Kirkman, FRCOG, MFFP, Senior Lecturer in Family Planning and Well Woman Care
  1. University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence Dr N Mullin, The Palatine Centre, 63–65 Palatine Road, Manchester M20 3LJ, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 161 434 3555. E-mail: nicola{at}


Objective To discover what terminology women prefer to use when referring to contraceptive methods and to investigate the understanding of and ideas associated with contraceptive names.

Design A self-administered questionnaire was answered by 191 new patients at family planning clinics (FPCs). Women were asked if they understood the terms used by the fpa (Family Planning Association), if they knew of any alternatives and, if so, which they preferred.

Setting Selected FPCs across the city of Manchester.

Results Patients preferred to use familiar terms, e.g. pill, mini-pill, coil and morning-after pill. There was no difference in preference when the results were compared by age or educational level. A greater proportion of nonCaucasians than Caucasians preferred the precise (fpa) terms. Although precise terms were not widely known or understood, when used they were associated with more information than were the familiar terms.

Conclusion All FPC staff should evaluate the language used by individual patients and, where appropriate, introduce precise terminology to help patients to make informed, appropriate choices.

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