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Hormonal contraceptive prescriptions in the UK Armed Forces
  1. Rebecca L Double1,
  2. S L Wardle1,2,
  3. T J O'Leary1,2,
  4. N Weaden3,
  5. G Bailey3 and
  6. J P Greeves1,4
  1. 1Department of Army Health and Performance Research, UK Ministry of Defence, Andover, Hants, UK
  2. 2Department of Targeted Intervention, University College London Division of Surgery and Interventional Science, London, UK
  3. 3Defence Statistics (Health), UK Ministry of Defence, Bristol, UK
  4. 4Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, Norfolk, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor J P Greeves, Department of Army Health and Performance Research, United Kingdom Ministry of Defence, Andover, Hants, UK SP11 8HT; Julie.Greeves143{at}


Introduction Thirty four per cent of women use hormonal contraceptives in the UK and the contraceptive pill is the most common method. There are no comparable data in the UK Armed Forces, but servicewomen are often required to complete physically arduous job roles in combat zones and may be more likely to take contraceptives to control or stop menstrual bleeding than the general population. We explored the prevalence of hormonal contraceptive prescriptions in the UK Armed Forces.

Methods The study used defence medical records (Defence Medical Information Capability Programme) to identify hormonal contraceptive prescriptions for all serving regular UK servicewomen (n=15 738) as of 1 September 2017.

Results Thirty one per cent of servicewomen (Royal Navy, 28%; British Army, 30%; Royal Air Force, 34%) had a current prescription for a hormonal contraceptive. Non-officer ranks were more likely to have a prescription for a hormonal contraceptive (32%) than officers (27%) (p<0.01). The contraceptive pill was more commonly prescribed (68%) than long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (32%) (contraceptive injection, 11%; contraceptive implant, 11%; intrauterine device, 10%).

Conclusion Prescription data suggest that the prevalence of hormonal contraceptive use in UK servicewomen is comparable with the general UK population. These findings suggest that military service does not influence prevalence or choice of hormonal contraceptives.

  • audit
  • physiology
  • reproductive medicine

Statistics from


  • Contributors RLD, SLW, JPG and TJOL designed the study and interpreted the data. NW and GB analysed the data. RLD produced the manuscript and all authors edited for intellectual content and approved the final version.

  • Funding The study was funded by the British Army.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval The work described here is an audit conducted by the British Army using data held by the British Army for this purpose. In accordance with the UK Policy Framework on Health and Social Care Research (paragraph 3.1) and JSP536 (part 1, chapter 1, paragraph 11a), audits are not routinely reviewed by a research ethics committee. No personal or confidential data were transferred outside the British Army.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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