Disturbingly low levels of contraception among women living with hepatitis C

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2003 Dec;27(6):620-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-842x.2003.tb00609.x.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / psychology
  • Sexual Partners
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires