Objective: To determine current contraceptive management by general practitioners in Australia.
Design, setting and participants: Analysis of data from a random sample of 3910 Australian GPs who participated in the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) survey, a continuous cross-sectional survey of GP activity, between April 2007 and March 2011. Consultations with female patients aged 12-54 years that involved all forms of contraception were analysed.
Main outcome measures: GP and patient characteristics associated with the management of contraception; types of contraception used; rates of encounters involving emergency contraception.
Results: Increased age, ethnicity, Indigenous status and holding a Commonwealth Health Care Card were significantly associated with low rates of encounters involving management of contraception. The combined oral contraceptive pill was the most frequently prescribed method of contraception, with moderate prescription of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), especially among women aged 34-54 years. Rates of consultations concerned with emergency contraception were low, but involved high rates of counselling, advice or education (48%) compared with encounters for general contraception (> 20%).
Conclusion: A shift towards prescribing LARC, as recommended in clinical guidelines, has yet to occur in Australian general practice. Better understanding of patient and GP perspectives on contraceptive choices could lead to more effective contraceptive use.