Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on contraceptive prescribing in general practice: a retrospective analysis of English prescribing data between 2019 and 2020

Contracept Reprod Med. 2022 Mar 14;7(1):3. doi: 10.1186/s40834-022-00169-w.


Objectives: This paper looks at how contraceptive prescribing by General Practices in England was affected by the COVID-19pandemic and lockdown. It compares English prescribing data in April - June 2019, the year before COVID19, and April-June 2020, the first three months of 'lockdown'.

Design & setting: This paper is based on retrospective analysis of the English Prescribing Dataset which reports monthly on prescribed items from English General Practices. Data on all forms of prescribed contraceptive methods were extracted using BNF codes, and total quantities tabulated by method. To reach the total number of months of contraception provided, total quantities were divided or multiplied according the frequency with which the method is taken per month or the numbers of months of contraception provided.

Results: Prescription of the combined oral contraceptive pill reduced by 22% during the period of lockdown compared to the same three months in 2019. Prescriptions of Progestogen-Only pills remained stable. Prescription of long-acting methods reduced, with the greatest reductions in implants (76% reduction from pre-lockdown levels), intra-uterine systems (79% reduction from pre-lockdown levels) and intrauterine devices (76% reduction from pre-lockdown levels).

Conclusions: The disruption of face-to-face contraceptive consultations in General Practice during a COVID-19 'lockdown' has resulted in a reduction in oestrogen -containing methods compared to progestogen-only methods, which require less face-to-face monitoring. Implant and intrauterine contraceptive device prescription reduced by three quarters over the first three months of lockdown, which has the potential to result in a rise in unintended pregnancies.

Keywords: COVID − 19; Contraception; England; General practice; Prescriptions.