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Understanding barriers to using long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) in primary care: a qualitative evidence synthesis
  1. Emma Linton,
  2. Rebecca Mawson,
  3. Victoria Hodges,
  4. Caroline Anne Mitchell
  1. AUPMC, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rebecca Mawson, AUPMC, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK; r.l.mawson{at}


Background Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are highly effective. In primary care, LARCs are prescribed less frequently than user-dependent contraceptives despite higher efficacy rates. Unplanned pregnancies are rising in the UK, and LARCs may have a role in reducing these through and redressing inequitable contraceptive access. To provide contraceptive services that offer maximal choice and patient benefit, we must understand what contraception users and healthcare professionals (HCPs) think about LARCs and uncover barriers to their use.

Methods A systematic search using CINAHL, MEDLINE via Ovid, PsycINFO, Web of Science and EMBASE identified research about LARC use for pregnancy prevention in primary care. The approach adhered to the ‘Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses’ methodology, critically appraised the literature, and used NVivo software to organise data and perform thematic analysis to determine key themes.

Results Sixteen studies met our inclusion criteria. Three themes were identified: (1) trustworthiness (where and from whom participants obtained information regarding LARCs), (2) control (whether LARCs detract from personal autonomy) and (3) systems (how HCPs influenced LARC access). Misgivings about LARCs frequently arose from social networks and fears of surrendering control over fertility were prominent. HCPs perceived access issues and lack of familiarity or training as the main barriers to prescribing LARCs.

Conclusions Primary care plays a key role in improving access to LARC but barriers need to be addressed especially those involving misconception and misinformation. Access to LARC removal services are key to empower choice and prevent coercion. Facilitating trust within patient-centred contraceptive consult is essential.

  • contraception, barrier
  • long-acting reversible contraception
  • Reproductive Health
  • qualitative research
  • general practice

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  • EL and RM contributed equally.

  • Contributors EL and RM are cofirst authors. EL, RM, BH and CAM were involved in study design, methodology development, sifting and screening, analysis and thematic development. CAM was the academic supervisor for the project.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests RM provides paid and unpaid services for a contraceptive start-up company called The Lowdown, which provides information, advice services and prescriptions. This does not include the provision of LARC services.

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