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Keywords:

  • intrauterine device;
  • knowledge;
  • levonorgestrel intrauterine system

Background:  Intrauterine methods including the copper intrauterine device (Cu-IUD) and the levonorgestrel intrauterine system (LNG-IUS) provide highly effective long-term reversible contraception. The reasons for relative low use of these methods in Australia compared to many European countries are not clear, but may in part relate to provider reluctance because of outdated knowledge about their safety and efficacy.

Aims:  The aim of this study was to survey Australian Fellows of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists about their knowledge of the risks, benefits and mechanisms of action of intrauterine methods.

Methods:  In 2008, we undertook a cross-sectional survey of all Australian Fellows not registered as a subspecialist. The survey was mailed to 1050 practitioners and 701 were returned, comprising a response rate of 67%.

Results:  Knowledge about the LNG-IUS was significantly better than for the Cu-IUD in terms of correct understanding about mechanism of action (89.3% vs. 30%; < 0.001) and efficacy (63.2% vs. 33.5%; < 0.001). According to the WHO, both methods are considered suitable for use in nulliparous women, yet only 39.1% of providers believed the Cu-IUD suitable compared to 69.4% for the LNG-IUS (< 0.001). When responses were analysed according to time from graduation, many aspects of knowledge about these devices showed a linear trend, with greater accuracy in recent graduates (<10 years) compared with graduates of more than 30 years.

Conclusion:  Both methods are highly effective, non-user dependent and reversible and deserve greater understanding and consideration for use by Australian practitioners and women.