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Keywords:

  • emergency contraception;
  • contraception;
  • young people;
  • Australia;
  • unplanned pregnancy

Abstract

Objective: To explore first year Australian university students' knowledge and attitudes about emergency contraception and their understanding of the risk for pregnancy.

Method: A self-report questionnaire was completed by a convenience sample of 627 first year on-campus students from both health and non-health disciplines.

Results: Knowledge about emergency contraception (EC) was generally poor including misunderstanding that it can only be used the ‘morning after’, as well as where it may be accessed. Its potential use was, however, more highly accepted as a preventative measure after unprotected sexual intercourse than abortion in the event of unplanned pregnancy. Women had better knowledge than men, and on a number of measures there were significant differences between these groups.

Conclusions: Poor knowledge about the timing, accessibility, action and side effects of EC may act as a barrier to its use in the event of unprotected sexual intercourse. Although EC has been available in Australia as a Schedule 3 medication since 2004, its availability from pharmacies is not well known, nor is access from other primary health care providers.

Implications: The lack of knowledge about EC may lead to its underutilisation and underlines the need for future educational strategies about EC as well as the need for health professionals who provide contraceptive services to discuss EC with clients. Health promotion campaigns which are both general as well as gender-specific may improve overall community knowledge about this method of contraception.