Aims: To assess knowledge and attitudes of women with insulin dependent diabetes to contraception, prepregnancy planning, and genetic risk.
Method: Women with insulin dependent diabetes, aged 18 to 40, were identified from a population-based register of insulin users in North Canterbury. Participating subjects underwent a structured face to face interview, assessing current contraceptive practices and their knowledge and attitudes to the areas outlined above.
Results: One hundred and twenty four women, representing 86% of eligible women, agreed to participate. Eighty five subjects were using some form of contraception. The most popular choices were the combined oral contraceptive pill (35%), the progesterone only pill (12%), condoms (24%), vasectomy (12%) and tubal ligation (12%). All subjects recognised the importance of good blood glucose control during pregnancy. Thirty nine percent of subjects using contraception avoided the combined oral contraceptive pill because of concerns about metabolic and vascular side effects. Only 52% of subjects knew the correct figure for genetic risk of passing insulin dependent diabetes on to an offspring.
Conclusions: Patient education regarding the need for prepregnancy planning in women with insulin dependent diabetes appeared adequate and the percentage of subjects using contraception was higher than that described in overseas diabetic populations. Over a third of subjects were however concerned about the risks of contraceptive options in insulin dependent diabetes, particularly with regard to the use of the combined oral contraceptive pill. This finding suggests that discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of contraceptive choices should be an integral part of patient education for women with insulin dependent diabetes mellitus of child-bearing age. Knowledge about genetic risk was inadequate in half the subjects interviewed, and this area of patient education could also be improved.