mHealth technologies for pregnancy prevention: A challenge for patient-centred contraceptive counselling in Dutch general practice

Eur J Gen Pract. 2024 Dec;30(1):2302435. doi: 10.1080/13814788.2024.2302435. Epub 2024 Jan 24.

Abstract

Background: A general practitioner (GP) standardly provides contraceptive counselling and care in the Netherlands. Recent years have seen the rise of mobile health technologies that aim to prevent pregnancy based on fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs). We lack high-quality evidence of these methods' effectiveness and clarity on how healthcare professionals include them in contraceptive counselling.

Objectives: To analyse how Dutch healthcare professionals include pregnancy-prevention mobile health technologies (mHealth contraception) in contraceptive counselling and to propose practice recommendations based on our findings.

Methods: We used ethnographic methods, including semi-structured interviews with nine professionals who were recruited using purposive sampling, 10 observations of contraceptive counselling by four professionals, six observations of teaching sessions in medical training on contraception and reproductive health, one national clinical guideline, and seven Dutch patient decision aids. Data were collected between 2018 and 2021 and analysed inductively using praxiographic and thematic analysis.

Results: In contraceptive counselling and care, professionals tended to blend two approaches: 1) individual patient-tailored treatment and 2) risk minimisation. When interviewed about mHealth contraception, most professionals prioritised risk minimisation and forewent tailored treatment. Some did not consider mHealth contraception or FABMs as contraceptives or deemed them inferior methods.

Conclusion: To minimise risk of unintended pregnancy, professionals hesitated to include mHealth contraception or other FABMs in contraceptive consultations. This may hamper adequate patient-centred counselling for patients with preference for mHealth contraception.Based on these results, we proposed recommendations that foster a patient-tailored approach to mHealth contraceptives.

Keywords: Contraceptive counselling; mHealth technologies; non-hormonal contraception; patient-centred care; risk minimisation.

Plain language summary

KEY MESSAGESPrioritisation of risk minimisation precluded professionals from including FABMs and mHealth contraception in their counselling.For patient-centred counselling, professionals need differentiated information about FABM use and effectiveness through adequate guidelines and training.

MeSH terms

  • Contraceptive Agents
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • General Practice*
  • General Practitioners*
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Telemedicine*

Substances

  • Contraceptive Agents