The visit before the morning after: Barriers to preprescribing emergency contraception

Alison Karasz, Nicole Tan Kirchen, Marji Gold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Research suggests that while advance prescription of emergency contraception (EC) increases women's access, this prescribing model is rarely used. The present study sought to explore attitudes towards EC among patients and physicians, with the goal of understanding potential barriers to advance prescription. METHODS: Qualitative, semistructured interviews were conducted with patients and clinicians in a New York City family practice clinic. RESULTS: Using qualitative interviews, we found that attitudes towards EC among patients and clinicians are complex. Both groups of participants reported favorable attitudes towards EC. There was general agreement that physicians should take a proactive role in educating patients about the method. A notable minority in each group described substantial reservations, however, especially regarding the potential for EC abuse. Such attitudes emerged mainly in the context of discussions about advance prescription. Advance prescription was viewed as greatly facilitating access to EC, but some patients and clinicians feared that ready access would encourage irresponsible sex. Some participants condoned the occasional, accidental, or emergency use of EC; however, habitual use, or the plan not to plan for sex, was viewed as morally indefensible. CONCLUSION: Findings suggest that even when attitudes towards EC are generally favorable, some physicians and patients have substantial reservations about advance prescription. Education and dialogue are needed to overcome these reservations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-350
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2004


  • Contraception
  • Family planning services
  • Health knowledge, attitudes, practice
  • Qualitative research
  • Women's health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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