Background: In addition to the contraceptive action of the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), there are a number of other benefits to its use such as menstrual cycle regulation. However, COCP use is also associated with a higher risk of thromboembolism. Despite the prevalence of COCP use, studies have indicated that overall women have poor knowledge of the COCP.
Aim: To evaluate women's knowledge of the COCP in a rural general practice setting. The extent of knowledge was assessed in several domains including: COCP use and effectiveness, mechanism of action, and the risks and benefits of COCP use.
Methods: An observational study design was utilised. Women aged 18-50 years self-selected to complete an anonymous survey at a general practice in rural NSW. Women who were currently using, had previously used, or had never used the COCP were invited to participate. Women using a progesterone-only contraceptive were excluded. A total knowledge score on the usage and effects of the COCP was calculated for each participant by assessing responses to 34 questions for an overall score out of 34.
Results: A total of 80 surveys were completed revealing that 98% of respondents used the COCP at some time in their lives with almost 29% being current users. The mean total knowledge score for all participants was 14.4 (SD = 4.9) out of a possible 34 (range: 5 - 26). There was no significant difference in total knowledge score between current and previous users (p = 0.56).
Conclusion: The women surveyed in this study appear to have substantial gaps in their knowledge of the COCP. This study provides insight into specific knowledge areas that require further education and clarification during COCP counselling sessions (especially those conducted by a GP) to encourage improved knowledge of the COCP by women in this particular setting.