Community pharmacists providing emergency contraception give little advice about future contraceptive use: a mystery shopper study

Contraception. 2010 Dec;82(6):538-42. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2010.05.008. Epub 2010 Jul 22.


Background: UK women increasingly prefer to attend a pharmacy for emergency contraception (EC) rather than a doctor. Most women who use EC do not conceive and remain at risk of pregnancy unless they start regular contraception. We undertook a study to evaluate the quality of service provision in community pharmacies in Lothian, Scotland, and to determine what advice is given about contraception after EC use.

Study design: Mystery shopper study.

Results: EC was unobtainable from 5/40 pharmacies (12.5%), refused because of "contraindications" in 7 (17.5%) and offered in 28 (70%). Most pharmacists appeared nonjudgemental, over 75% asked appropriate questions about eligibility, and over 90% gave appropriate advice about use. EC was universally refused beyond 72 h after sex but universally provided when the date of the last menstrual period was uncertain. Ongoing contraception after EC use was discussed in only 32.5% of all pharmacies and only 43% of those issuing EC.

Conclusions: The quality of consultations for EC in pharmacies is generally good but only a minority discuss ongoing contraception after EC use. The implications for contraceptive use and unintended pregnancy rates are worrying.

MeSH terms

  • Community Pharmacy Services*
  • Contraception Behavior*
  • Contraception, Postcoital*
  • Directive Counseling*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pharmacists*
  • Scotland
  • Young Adult