Clinician and Staff Perceptions of Barriers to Providing Contraception in Primary Care

PRiMER. 2019 Feb 8:3:2. doi: 10.22454/PRiMER.2019.228141. eCollection 2019.


Introduction: Short interpregnancy periods increase the likelihood of preterm delivery and low birth weight,1 both of which are significant causes of infant morbidity and mortality.2 Since nearly half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned,3 opportunities exist to better understand barriers to contraceptive services. Studying these barriers as perceived by clinical staff can better guide programs to improve interpregnancy spacing.

Methods: Between September and November 2017, 76 staff and 95 primary care clinicians from two family medicine residency practices (Highland Family Medicine (HFM) in Rochester, New York and St Margaret Family Medicine (SM) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) completed surveys. Questions assessed perceived barriers to providing contraceptive services, contraception knowledge, and opportunities for improvement. Survey-based analysis focused on comparative descriptive statistics between staff and provider responses.

Results: Clinicians ranked side effects and patient lack of awareness and misconceptions about contraceptive methods more highly than staff (P=0.0073 and P=0.0001, respectively). Staff identified childcare and work absence as more significant barriers (P=0.0114 and P=0.0380, respectively). Providers felt appointment timing was the largest constraint to contraceptive care. Staff perceived financial limitations and scheduling to be the top barriers. Nonclinician staff exhibited significant knowledge gaps regarding contraception.

Conclusions: Numerous modifiable barriers contribute to difficulty providing contraceptive services. Providers and staff largely agree on the perceived barriers, but there is a significant gap in nonclinician staff knowledge of contraception. Education can address one of the leading concerns, but improvement efforts should also address areas such as availability of devices, scheduling issues, and resident supervision.