Use of prescribed contraception in Northern Ireland 2010-2016

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Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the use of prescribed contraceptives in Northern Ireland (NI) and how this varies with a woman’s age, the deprivation in the area in which she lives and characteristics of her general practice (GP). 

Method: A population-based cohort study was conducted including 560,074 females, aged 12–49 registered with a GP (2010–2016) contributing 3,255,500 woman-years of follow-up. Dispensed contraceptive prescriptions were linked to demographic details. 

Results: A contraceptive prescription was dispensed in 26.2% of woman-years with women aged 20–24 most likely to have a contraceptive dispensed (45.7% of woman-years). After adjusting for patient and other practice characteristics, practices in the least deprived quintile prescribed 6% more contraception than those in the most deprived quintile. The combined oral contraceptives (16.6% of woman-years) and progesterone only pill (8.0% of woman-years) were the most commonly dispensed methods. Patient and practice level characteristics were found to be related to the specific contraceptive methods dispensed which also changed during the time frame of the study. 

Conclusions: This is the first population-based assessment of contraceptive prescription in NI. It is useful for health service planning and to inform broader reproductive policy debates. The impact of practice area-based deprivation, above that of the woman’s residence, on contraceptive dispensing is a new finding that deserves more exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalThe European Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Health Care
Issue number2
Early online date18 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 3 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ESL/L007509/1] (Administrative Data Research Centre?Northern Ireland) and the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health [grant number P-2017-B-F]. The authors would like to acknowledge the help provided by the staff of the Honest Broker Service (HBS) within the Business Services Organisation Northern Ireland (BSO). The HBS is funded by the BSO and the Department of Health (DOH). The authors alone are responsible for the interpretation of the data and any views or opinions presented are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the BSO.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, © 2020 The European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health.


  • Contraception
  • medication utilisation
  • prescription database
  • administrative data
  • data linkage
  • population-based cohort


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