Objectives: To assess women's knowledge and attitudes in relation to emergency contraception and to identify ways in which these might be improved.
Design: Postal survey: questionnaire seeking level of knowledge of emergency contraception, and attitudes to use, publicity and availability.
Population: A stratified random sample of 2000 Grampian women aged 18 to 47. Women were identified through the Community Health Index.
Results: Most women (94%) were aware of emergency contraception and identified an appropriate source. Fewer (39%) knew the correct timing for its use. These figures were generally higher among younger, single women. The popular media represented the commonest source of information, and GPs and Family Planning Clinics were cited rarely. Increased advertising was considered desirable by 71% (mainly older women); only 36% (mainly younger, single women) considered over-the-counter availability desirable. Reasons for these responses and factors influencing them were explored.
Conclusions: Knowledge of emergency contraception is greatest among those most likely to use it, but deficient mainly in relation to the correct timing for its use and to intrauterine methods. Publicity should concentrate on the timing of its use. The popular media are an important publicity vehicle, but health professionals appear to be under-used. Many women hold opinions on advertising and over-the-counter availability of emergency contraception which will have to be considered if deregulation proceeds.