A cohort study of the service-users of online contraception

Emma Rezel-Potts, Paula Baraitser, Caroline Free, Melissa J. Palmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In January 2017, the first free service providing oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) ordered online and posted home became available in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark - ethnically and socioeconomically diverse areas with high rates of unplanned pregnancy. There are concerns that online services can increase health inequalities; therefore, we aimed to describe service-users according to age, ethnicity and Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) quintile of area of residence and to examine the association of these with repeated use. Methods: We analysed routinely collected data from January 2017 to April 2018 and described service-users using available sociodemographic factors and information on patterns of use. Logistic regression analysis examined factors associated with repeat ordering of OCPs. Results: The service was accessed by 726 individuals; most aged between 20 and 29 years (72.5%); self-identified as being of white ethnic group (58.8%); and residents of the first and second most deprived IMD quintiles (79.2%). Compared with those of white ethnic group, those of black ethnic group were significantly less likely to make repeat orders (adjusted OR 0.53, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.89; p=0.001), as were those of Asian and mixed ethnic groups. Conclusions: These are the first empirical findings on free, online contraception and suggest that early adopters broadly reflect the population of the local area in terms of ethnic diversity and deprivation as measured by IMD. Ongoing service development should prioritise the identification and removal of barriers which may inhibit repeat use for black and minority ethnic groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbmjsrh-2020-200610
Pages (from-to)287-293
Number of pages7
JournalBMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • family planning service provision
  • hormonal contraception
  • oral contraceptives
  • service delivery


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