Abused women more likely to seek emergency contraception

Quantifying the association between exposure to DVA and consultations for Emergency contraception.


Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is a major public health problem, with devastating consequences for the women who experience it. It is known to significantly affect women’s reproductive health, including an expanded danger of unintended pregnancy and abortion, as abusive and controlling accomplices force ladies to have unprotected sex or assault them.

Although emergency hormonal contraceptive is available from pharmacies, women can also get it from their GP. Up to a third of all emergency, contraceptives are prescribed by GPs.

According to a new study by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded researchers at the University of Bristol and Queen Mary University of London, women who experience domestic violence and abuse (DVA) are more than twice as likely to seek emergency contraception as other women.

Scientists analyzed medicinal records of more than 200,000 women of reproductive age enrolled with a GP and found that the individuals who had a record of DVA were 2.06 times more likely to have a discussion for emergency contraception contrasted with other ladies, ascending to 2.8 times for women aged 25-39.

The researchers also found some evidence that abused women are more likely to seek emergency contraception repeatedly.

Joni Jackson, Research Associate from the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research West (NIHR CLAHRC West) and co-lead author of the study, said: “We found a strong positive association between exposure to domestic violence and abuse and requests for emergency contraception.”

“Our findings are in line with evidence from studies in other countries suggesting that women experiencing DVA use more emergency contraception than other women. GPs, pharmacists and sexual health practitioners are at the front line responding to these requests, with community pharmacists dispensing 50 percent of all emergency contraceptive pills. This presents an important opportunity to identify women experiencing DVA, signpost them to appropriate support services, and potentially save lives.”

Dr. Natalia Lewis, from the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol and co-lead author, added: “The negative impact of domestic violence and abuse on health results in higher use of healthcare services by abused women compared to the general population. This means that healthcare services are an important point of contact for DVA victims and survivors.”

“We have already seen improvements in GPs’ ability to identify and refer women experiencing DVA through the success of the IRIS (Identification and Referral to Improve Safety) programme. IRIS has recently been adapted for sexual and reproductive health services. Our findings support the case for adapting the IRIS intervention to the community pharmacy setting, although more research is needed to explore if and how this could be done.”

Scientists have published the study in the British Journal of General Practice.

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