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Hormonal contraceptive prescriptions in the UK Armed Forces

Abstract

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

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