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Where do women and men in Britain obtain contraception? Findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)
  1. Rebecca S French1,
  2. Rebecca Geary2,
  3. Kyle Jones2,
  4. Anna Glasier1,
  5. Catherine H Mercer2,
  6. Jessica Datta1,
  7. Wendy Macdowall1,
  8. Melissa Palmer1,
  9. Anne M Johnson2,
  10. Kaye Wellings1
  1. 1 Department of Social & Environmental Health Research, Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  2. 2 Research Department of Infection and Population Health, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rebecca S French, Department of Social & Environmental Health Research, Faculty of Public Health & Policy, Centre for Sexual and Reproductive Health Research, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK; Rebecca.French{at}


Introduction To estimate the prevalence of use of different sources of contraceptive supplies in Britain and its variation by key demographic and behavioural characteristics.

Methods Cross-sectional probability sample survey of women and men aged 16–74 years, resident in Britain, interviewed between 2010 and 2012. Analyses reported here were of 4571 women and 3142 men aged 16–44 years who reported having vaginal sex in the past year. Those relying exclusively on sterilisation (including hysterectomy) were excluded. Sources of contraceptive supplies were categorised as: general practice, community clinic, retail and other. Prevalence of use of these sources was estimated, and associated factors examined.

Results Some 87.0% of women and 73.8% of men accessed at least one source of contraceptive supplies in the previous year. Most women (59.1%) used general practice and most men (54.6%) used retail outlets. Community clinics were less commonly used, by 23.0% of women and 21.3% of men, but these users were younger and at greater sexual health risk. These associations were also observed among the 27.3% of women and 30.6% of men who used more than one source category (general practice, community clinic or retail) for contraceptive supplies.

Conclusions People in Britain use a variety of sources to obtain contraceptive supplies and some sources are more commonly used by those more vulnerable to poorer sexual health. Our findings suggest that national policy changes to increase access to contraceptive methods have had an effect on the diversity of services used.

  • prevalence
  • user characteristics
  • contraceptive service use
  • family planning
  • natsal-3

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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  • Contributors RSF led on the writing of the paper. RG and KJ conducted the statistical analysis. All other authors (KW, AG, JD, CHM, MP, AMJ, WM) commented on drafts of the paper and were involved in the planning and conduct of the study.

  • Funding Natsal-3 was supported by grants from the Medical Research Council (G0701757)and the Wellcome Trust (084840), with contributions from the Economic and Social Research Council and Department of Health.

  • Competing interests AG receives an honorarium from HRPharma. None of the other authors report conflicting interests.

  • Ethics approval The Natsal-3 study was approved by the Oxfordshire Research Ethics Committee (Reference: 09/H0604/27).

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

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