Objective: To describe the prevalence of contraception among a sample of women with hepatitis C (HCV), compare it with contraceptive use among Australian women generally, and look for associations between contraception and sample characteristics.
Method: Women who self-identified as living with HCV were recruited through a wide range of non-clinical and clinical sites in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Victoria to complete a self-administered questionnaire.
Results: Seventy-five per cent of distributed questionnaires were completed and returned. Of the 462 women surveyed, 34% of those aged 18-49 reported using contraceptives; a much lower prevalence than the 67% in the Australian population. Surprisingly, women who reported concerns about transmission to children were no more likely to use contraceptives. Not surprisingly, women who were lesbian or who did not have a current partner were even less likely to use contraceptives. Both employed women and those not on benefits reported significantly higher levels of contraception. Otherwise, contraception did not vary with a range of variables including age, education, injecting drug use status, self-rated health status, experience of HCV symptoms, time since diagnosis, ever having received HCV treatment, or venue at which the participants were recruited.
Conclusions: The low prevalence of contraception among women with HCV is both disturbing and puzzling.
Implications: These findings raise several important and hitherto unconsidered issues for the sexual and reproductive health and well-being of women with HCV. These require both further research and urgent attention by service providers.