Background/introduction This study aimed to survey US servicewomen on their contraceptive access and use during deployment.
Methods Between June 2016 and July 2017, we conducted a cross-sectional online survey among a convenience sample of current and former members of the US Military, National Guard and Reserves who had a deployment ending in 2010 or later. Participants were asked open-ended and closed-ended questions about their demographics and contraceptive use and access before and during their last deployment. Descriptive statistics were run on closed-ended questions and responses to open-ended questions were inductively coded.
Results A total of 353 participants were included. Sixty-five per cent reported using contraception during all or part of their last deployment. Nearly half (49.3%) did not have or remember having a discussion with a military care provider about contraception prior to deployment. Both prior to and during deployment, the free or low cost of birth control and ability to get a full supply for deployment facilitated contraceptive use. Difficulty obtaining an appointment and the inability to get a full supply of birth control were barriers to contraception access both before and during deployment. Half (49.1%) of respondents who had to start or refill contraception during deployment said it was somewhat or very difficult to do so.
Conclusions For at least some servicewomen, there are barriers to contraceptive access and use prior to and during overseas deployment. Programmes to increase contraceptive access should be expanded and monitoring systems should be implemented to ensure all servicemembers receive predeployment contraceptive counselling.
- oral contraceptives
- barrier methods
- hormonal contraception
- long-acting reversible contraception
- intrauterine devices
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Contributors DG and KG designed the study. JWS and LF collected the data. JWS, KG and LF analysed the data. JWS, KG, LF and DG interpreted the data and drafted the manuscript. All authors have reviewed and approved the manuscript.
Funding This work was made possible by generous general support funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (grant numbers 2015-62393, 2017-66457).
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research. Refer to the Methods section for further details.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement No data are available. Survey respondents completed informed consent documents to participate in the study, with the understanding that any and all identifying information would remain confidential, including in the context of publication. Publishing the complete dataset would infringe on the confidentiality agreement we have made with the participants in our study. Beyond the relevant data included in the manuscript, we are happy to share our research instruments upon request.
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