Knowledge, attitudes and practices of health professionals in public health institutions on emergency contraception in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa

E Sibanda, M J Titus


Background. Although emergency contraception (EC) is widely available, its use is surrounded by many controversies. Overall, it seems to be underutilised worldwide.

Objectives. To determine healthcare professionals᾽ knowledge, attitudes and perceptions regarding EC, and how frequently they encounter, educate and issue it to patients.

Methods. A questionnaire-based survey of doctors and nurses (volunteers) working in obstetrics and gynaecology was conducted in 3 public hospitals and 17 clinics in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Data were analysed using SPSS.

Results. Sixty-seven (25%) doctors and 201 (75%) nurses participated in the survey. Awareness of the three ECs available in the public sector overall was 56.4%, and 62.7% of participants could prescribe one EC correctly. Only 39.6% knew that EC pills prevent ovulation. Seventy-six percent thought that the use of EC could lead to high-risk sexual behaviour, high risk of transmission of HIV and non-use of other forms of contraception. Only 7.8% saw patients seeking EC often, 5.6% issued it often and 23.5% educated patients about it often.

Conclusion. Participants were familiar with EC, but lacked accurate and detailed knowledge about its mechanism of action and had misperceptions on its social impact. They seldom prescribed it.

Authors' affiliations

E Sibanda, University of Kwazulu Natal

M J Titus,

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Emergency contraception;Knowledge;Attitudes;Practices;Health professionals

Cite this article

South African Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2017;23(1):7-11. DOI:10.7196/SAJOG.2017.v23i1.1091

Article History

Date submitted: 2016-05-30
Date published: 2017-05-16

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