To determine the extent to which Nova Scotian FPs prescribe and provide emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) and to explore their knowledge of and attitudes toward ECPs.
Survey of Nova Scotian FPs using a modified Dillman method.
All regions of Nova Scotia.
Family physicians registered with Dalhousie University’s Division of Continuing Medical Education.
Main outcome measures
Sex differences in the provision of ECPs and knowledge and attitudes about the ECP Plan B.
Of 913 eligible FPs, 155 (17.0%) participated in the survey. Respondents resembled the sampling frame closely. Most physicians (64.0%) had prescribed ECPs in the previous year (mean number of prescriptions, 4.92); only 12.9% provided ECPs in advance of need. Knowledge about Plan B was quite good, except for knowledge of the time frame for potential effectiveness; only 29.2% of respondents answered that question correctly. Respondents generally supported nonprescription availability of ECPs, but 25.0% of FPs were concerned that this could lead to less use of more effective methods of contraception, and 39.2% believed that it would encourage repeat use. Younger FPs provided ECPs more often than their older colleagues, while female respondents had better knowledge about Plan B. In multivariate analysis being younger than 40 years was marginally associated with prescribing Plan B and with prescribing any form of ECP.
Most Nova Scotian FPs provided ECPs and had generally good knowledge about and attitudes toward providing such contraception without prescription. However, FPs were poorly informed about the length of time that Plan B can be effective, which could potentially affect use when patients consult several days after unprotected sex. There were some concerns about nonprescription availability of ECPs, which could have implications for recommending it to patients. Rarely were ECPs prescribed for advance use, which might represent a lost prevention opportunity, especially for adolescents who often do not use effective contraception.