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Contraception prescribing in England during the COVID-19 pandemic
  1. Tanha Begum1,
  2. Emer Cullen2,
  3. Malcolm Moffat2,
  4. Judith Rankin2
  1. 1 School of Pharmacy, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2 Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Malcolm Moffat, Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK; Malcolm.Moffat{at}


Background National lockdowns in England due to COVID-19 resulted in rapid shifts in healthcare provision, including in primary care where most contraceptive prescriptions are issued. This study aimed to investigate contraception prescribing trends in primary care during the pandemic and the impact of socioeconomic deprivation.

Methods Prescribing data were accessed from the English Prescribing Dataset for the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic (1 March 2020–28 February 2021) and the year prior (1 March 2019–29 February 2020). Data were analysed by geographical region (London, Midlands and East of England, North of England, South of England) and contraceptive type (progestogen-only pill (POP), combined oral contraception (COC), emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) and contraceptive injections). Differences in prescribing rates were calculated using Poisson regression. Pearson correlation coefficients were calculated for the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) scores for each Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in the North East and North Cumbria (NENC).

Results Contraception prescribing rates decreased overall during the COVID-19 pandemic in England (Poisson regression coefficient (β)=−0.035), with a statistically significant (p<0.01) decrease in all four regions. Prescriptions decreased for COC (β=−0.978), contraceptive injections (β=−0.161) and EHC (β=−0.2005), while POP (β=0.050) prescribing rates increased. There was a weak positive correlation between IMD and prescribing rates in NENC (p>0.05).

Conclusions Contraception provision was impacted by COVID-19 with an overall decrease in prescribing rates. The deprivation results suggest that this may not be a significant contributing factor to this decrease. Further research is recommended to better understand these changes, and to ensure that services respond appropriately to population needs.

  • COVID-19
  • family planning services
  • contraceptives, oral
  • contraceptives, postcoital
  • hormonal contraception

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. All the data used in these analyses are available at

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Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. All the data used in these analyses are available at

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  • Contributors TB, MM and JR contributed to the conception and design of the work. All authors contributed to the analysis and interpretation of the work. TB and EC drafted the manuscript and all authors revised it for important intellectual content. All authors gave final approval of the version to be published. MM is responsible for the content overall as guarantor.

  • 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. JR is part-funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria (NENC).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.