Context: Emergency contraception can play an important role in reducing the rate of unintended pregnancies in Nigeria. Although it is included in the national family planning guidelines, there is limited awareness of this method among clients.
Methods: In 2003-2004, a sample of 256 health care providers within Lagos State were surveyed about their knowledge of, attitudes toward and provision of emergency contraceptives, using a 25-item, self-administered questionnaire. Frequencies were calculated for the various measures, and chi-square tests were used to determine significant differences.
Results: Nine in 10 providers had heard of emergency contraception, but many lacked specific knowledge about the method. Only half of them knew the correct time frame for effective use of emergency contraceptive pills, and three-fourths knew that the pills prevent pregnancy; more than a third incorrectly believed that they may act as an abortifacient. Fewer than a third of respondents who had heard of the pills knew that they are legal in Nigeria. Of those who had heard about emergency contraception, 58% had provided clients with emergency contraceptive pills, yet only 10% of these providers could correctly identify the drug, dose and timing of the first pill in the regimen. Furthermore, fewer than one in 10 of those who knew of emergency contraception said they always provided information to clients, whereas a fourth said they never did so.
Conclusions: Nigerian health care providers urgently need education about emergency contraception; training programs should target the types of providers who are less knowledgeable about the method.