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The emergency contraceptive pill rescheduled: a focus group study of women's knowledge, attitudes and experiences
  1. Melissa Hobbs, BA, MPH, Research Officer,
  2. Angela J Taft, PhD, Senior Research Fellow and
  3. Lisa H Amir, MBBS, PhD, Senior Research Fellow
  1. Mother … Child Health Research, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Ms Melissa Hobbs, Mother … Child Health Research, La Trobe University, 324–328 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia. E-mail: melissa.hobbs{at}


Background and methodology The levonorgestrel-containing emergency contraceptive pill (ECP), amongst other strategies, has the potential to assist in reducing unintended pregnancy and abortion rates. Since the rescheduling of the ECP in January 2004 to over-the-counter (OTC) status from pharmacies in Australia, there is little information about Australian women's ECP knowledge, attitudes or practice. The aim of the study was to explore Australian women's knowledge of, attitudes towards and experiences of using the ECP, particularly since it has been available OTC. This paper reports a qualitative study using six focus groups, which were conducted between February and June 2007 in four Australian states with 29 women aged 16–29 years.

Results Participants had a lack of specific knowledge about the ECP. Most were positive about the ECP being available OTC, however some expressed concerns about younger women misusing it. Women's experiences obtaining the ECP from the pharmacy were both positive and negative. Most women said they would use the ECP again if required and would recommend it to a friend. Pharmacists were seen as important suppliers of the ECP but women felt it was not their role to provide advice about contraception or sexually transmitted infections.

Discussion and conclusions The findings from this study confirm views from other studies, which suggest that although women have some concerns in relation to OTC supply of the ECP, they believe that the deregulation of the ECP is a positive step. The data also suggest that women need to be provided with more information and education about the ECP.

  • attitudes
  • emergency contraceptive pill
  • experiences
  • knowledge
  • over-the-counter
  • qualitative research

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