Hormonal contraceptive use in Australian women: Who is using what?

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Background: In Australia many hormonal contraceptives are not Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) supported, hence the use of different formulations have not been quantified. Objectives: To document the use of hormonal contraceptives and factors associated with their use. Materials and methods: Cross-sectional, online questionnaire-based study of 6986 Australian women, aged 18–39 years, recruited by email invitation from two large, representative databases. Main outcome measures were the prevalence of use of hormonal contraceptives and associated socio-demographic characteristics. Results: Of the 6600 potential hormone contraceptive users, 43.2% were current users. Most (63.6%) reported using a combined oral contraceptive (COC) of which 30.9% were non-PBS-supported anti-androgenic progestin-containing COCs. Use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) or an injectable contraceptive was reported by 26.8%. Education beyond secondary school, being Australian born, rural residency, normal body mass index, age <25 years and nulliparity were significantly associated with hormonal contraceptive use. Women who reported polycystic ovary syndrome or acne were more likely to be taking a third or fourth generation COC (P < 0.0001) and endometriosis was significantly associated with intrauterine system (IUS) use. Third or fourth generation COC use was reported by 12.1% of obese, current smokers. Conclusion: An estimated one-third of Australian women aged 18–39 are taking a non-PBS-supported anti-androgenic progestin COC, highlighting inequity in access to COC options. That hormonal contraceptive use is higher in rural areas is a novel finding and the proportion of LARC or injectable use suggests that uptake in Australia is higher than previously reported.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-724
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • combined oral contraceptive
  • hormonal contraception
  • long-acting reversible contraceptive

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