All women aged 20-49 in a general practice were sent a questionnaire about their reproductive health, and 72% responded. 78% of respondents were using a method of fertility control. More than a quarter of women were obtaining their contraceptive supplies (condoms especially) from non-medical outlets. Knowledge of the existence of emergency contraception was high (83%). The general practitioner (GP) was the most popular source of contraceptive supplies for those aged under 40 years and more than four-fifths of women said that they would rather turn to their GP than to other sources for future contraceptive advice.
PIP: Although UK general practitioners are providing a growing share of family planning services, little is known about contraceptive use patterns in general practice. This paper reports the findings of a reproductive health questionnaire mailed to all women 20-49 years of age enrolled in a rural general practice near Bedfordshire, England, in 1992. 1370 women (72.2%) returned the questionnaire; 84.8% were married or cohabitating and 99.8% were sexually active. 77.7% of responders were using a fertility control method at the time of the survey. The most commonly reported methods were female sterilization (13.9%), vasectomy (17.7%), the pill (21.5%), condoms (16.4%), and the IUD (5.1%). 31.8% reported having had an unplanned pregnancy and 14.6% had undergone induced abortion. 83.4% had heard of emergency contraception, but only 8.2% had requested the method. The major sources for contraceptive supplies were general practitioner (59.0%), over-the-counter (25.6%), and a family planning clinic (10.8%). Preferred outlets were general practitioner (84.4%) and National Health Service family planning clinic (12.6%). Adequate family planning training for general practitioners is essential given their importance as a source of contraceptive care.