Study objective: To determine female college students' beliefs about oral contraceptive pill (OCP) availability and use, and to examine significant factors associated with these beliefs.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Setting: Urban women's liberal arts college.
Participants: Two hundred ninety female undergraduates who completed surveys.
Intervention: An anonymous survey was placed in all undergraduate mailboxes. Surveys were returned to a locked collection box in the mailroom. Within 4 weeks after distribution. 290 surveys were completed.
Main outcome measures: Sexual and contraceptive practices and students' beliefs regarding whether OCPs should be made available without prescription.
Results: The respondents' average age was 20.9 +/- 3.3 years; 84% reported previous sexual intercourse with the mean age of first intercourse at 16.6 +/- 2.2 years. Seventy-five percent of the sexually active women reported use of OCPs and 52% had used OCPs at their last intercourse. Sixty-five percent of all respondents felt OCPs should not be available without prescription. The two most commonly cited reasons for not wanting OCPs to be available over the counter (OTC) were that (1) side effects might occur that a health care provider could have prevented (59%), and (2) people would not go to their providers for regular check ups (56%). The most commonly cited reason for believing that OCPs should be available OTC was that there would be fewer unwanted pregnancies (74%). Race, previous OCP use, previous sexual activity, and perceived risk of pregnancy were not significant predictors of believing OCPs should be available OTC. Having had a previous pregnancy was a significant predictor of believing OCPs should be available OTC (p = 0.047). Those who believed OCPs should be available only with a prescription were willing to pay more for OCPs (p = 0.033). Logistic regression controlling for race revealed that both younger age (p = 0.03) and previous pregnancy (p = 0.002) were independent predictors of believing OCPs should be available OTC.
Conclusions: The majority of our sample believe that OCPs should remain as a prescription medication. Previous pregnancy and younger age are important factors in determining beliefs regarding OCP availability. Further studies in a more diverse population are needed to explore the relationship between age, previous pregnancy, and desire for contraceptive availability without prescription.