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Exploring and promoting the role of health visitors in postnatal contraception: a ‘test and learn’ project
  1. Victoria Gilroy1,
  2. Katherine Louise Gilmore2,
  3. Annette Thwaites3
  1. 1 Institute of Health Visiting, London, UK
  2. 2 Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Independent Researcher, Sunderland, UK
  3. 3 Sexual Health, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Victoria Gilroy, Institute of Health Visiting, London E1 8AN, UK; vicky.gilroy{at}

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The antenatal and postnatal periods are ideal times to offer women information about contraception to support informed decision-making.1 The provision of timely advice and supported access to contraception aims to enable women to plan subsequent pregnancies and reduce unintended pregnancies and short interpregnancy intervals that are linked with poor pregnancy outcomes.2

Why was the project needed?

Some 45% of pregnancies and a third of births in the UK are unplanned or ambivalent with over a third of women reporting that they are unable to access contraception from their preferred source.3 Recent National Health Service (NHS) data show a significant rise in abortions, with an increasing proportion of abortions in women who have children.4 The need for timely postnatal information and support is also highlighted in the UK Women’s Health Strategy policy document.1

What is the health visitor’s role in the promotion of postnatal contraception?

A health visitor’s role is to promote child, maternal and family health and well-being for all families with children and babies under 5 years old, through a holistic assessment and personalised approach.5 Health visitors are nurses or midwives who have undertaken postgraduate training to qualify as Specialist Community Public Health Nurses.6 Health visitors are commissioned across the UK to provide a universal service to all women and families, as part of the Healthy Child Programme, Public Health England (PHE).7 This includes offering regular home visits antenatally and postnatally (10–14 days, 6–8 weeks, 9 months–1 year and 2–2½ years). Mothers regularly attend their child’s healthcare visits even if they do not seek care for themselves between pregnancies. The provision of advice on contraceptive choices and interpregnancy care is a core part of the health visiting offer.7

Why was a development needed?

Despite health visitors being ideally placed …

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  • Contributors VG: supported all aspects and the development, design and delivery of the project. KLG: coauthor and scientific advisor. AT: coauthor and scientific advisor.

  • Funding Funding for the project was secured from the PHE, Reproductive Health, Sexual Health and HIV Innovation Fund 2021–2022.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.