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Use of contraceptive services in Britain: findings from the second National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal–2)
  1. Rebecca S French, MSc, Phd, Senior Research Associate1,
  2. Catherine H Mercer, MSc, PhD, Senior Research Fellow1,
  3. Anne M Johnson, MD, F Med Sci, Professor1,
  4. Kevin A Fenton, MD, PhD, Chief, National Syphilis Elimination Effort2,
  5. Bob Erens, BA, MA, Director, Survey Methods Unit3 and
  6. Kaye Wellings, FRCOG, FFSRH, Professor4
  1. Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research, Research Department of Infection and Population Health, University College London, London, UK
  2. Division of STD Prevention, National Centers for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, GA, USA, and Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research, University College London, London, UK
  3. National Centre for Social Research, London, UK
  4. Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health Research, Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rebecca French, Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research, University College London, The Margaret Pyke Centre, 73 Charlotte Street, London W1T 4PL, UK. E-mail: rfrench{at}


Objective To describe contraceptive service use and identify demographic and sexual behavioural characteristics associated with use (and non-use) of different services.

Methods Probability survey sample of men and women aged 16–44 years, resident in Britain. Participants comprised 3369 men and 4375 women reporting vaginal intercourse in the last year (excluding those reporting exclusive use of sterilisation or medical investigations for infertility). Main outcome measures were use of contraceptive services, grouped as: general practice, community contraceptive clinics, retail services and nonuse of services.

Results General practice was the most commonly reported source of contraceptive supplies for women (59.2%), while retail services were most frequently reported by men (42.7%). 16.3% of women and 7.3% of men reported using more than one type of service. 20.7% of women and 45.1% of men had used no service in the last year, and amongst 16–17-year-olds the proportions reporting non-use of services was 13.8% and 31.2%, respectively. Use of community contraceptive clinics was associated with being younger, childless, single and reporting more heterosexual partners in the last year.

Conclusions There was relatively little 'shopping around' between different services, suggesting that choice of contraceptive providers ensures a range of needs is met for most people. While general practice is the most commonly used source of supplies, community contraceptive clinics are seeing those potentially at higher sexual health risk, particularly the young and those with multiple partners. Ways of improving young people's access to services for contraceptive supplies need to be addressed.

  • contraceptive service use
  • natsal-2
  • sexual behaviour
  • sexual health

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