Is alcohol a factor in unsafe sex among women seeking emergency contraception? A two part study

Is alcohol a factor in unsafe sex among women seeking emergency

contraception? A two part study

A. Loxley (1), S. O’Keeffe (2), K. Cahill (1)

Department of Education, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland (1);

Crisis Pregnancy Agency, Dublin, Ireland (2)

Objectives: Alcohol is one factor identified in the literature as

playing an important role in determining: a) whether sex takes place; b) whether

contraception is used and used effectively. However, the relationship between

alcohol and unsafe sexual behaviours is not a clear one. This research was

initiated by Dublin Well Woman Centre (DWWC), as feedback from their staff and

other practitioners suggested that alcohol consumption was associated with an

increased demand for emergency contraception (EC). This research aimed to

describe the pattern of alcohol consumption among women requesting EC during the

period in which unsafe sex took place. A comparison group of non-EC clients was

used to examine whether drinking patterns were different between client groups.

This research tested the hypothesis that variables such as age and relationship

status would affect alcohol use, contraceptive use and unsafe sex.

Design and Methods: Both quantitative and qualitative approaches were

used. Questionnaires were administered to consecutive attendees at a sample of

DWWC clinical sessions, representative of all available clinic times for a 9

week period. Data were analysed using SPSS computer software. Clients presenting

for EC were invited to participate in a semi-structured interview. Interviews

were tape recorded, transcribed and analysed using a thematic analytic approach.

Results: A total of 230 women seeking EC completed the questionnaire

(97% response rate) and 222 non EC clients (95% response rate). The demographic

and social characteristics of the EC group closely mirrored those of the non EC

group. For example, 64% versus 36% were young women between 20–29 years

respectively; 38% versus 45% had a third level qualification; 61% versus 79% had

full time jobs and 77% versus 84% were in a relationship of some description.

Statistical tests found that the drinking patterns of women requesting EC did

not differ significantly from other clinic clients. Prior to seeking EC, 64% of

the EC clients reported to having used some form of contraception on the

occasion when unsafe sex occurred. Findings suggest that whether women

requesting EC drink alcohol or not, a majority of women used contraception.

Eight interviews were conducted with EC clients (the majority declined to

participate). Both quantitative and qualitative data suggested that women

experience problems with using contraception correctly and consistently.

Conclusions: These findings directly challenge the myth that women who

request EC, do so after casual sex and after being drunk. This data has

important clinical implications with respect to the training of family planning

practitioners, contraceptive advice and risk communication and addressing

information needs of women.

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