Researchers conducted this study to measure the repeated use of emergency contraception (EC) in family planning clinics (FPCs) in North and East Devon.

The study design was an audit of repeat use of EC was carried out in seven FPCs, in parallel with a client survey. All women seeking EC in the study period were included (n = 572).

Nearly 70% of women had ‘ever’ used EC before the study visit; over half had previously used EC in the study year; a quarter had once used EC three or more times in the same period. Teenagers were more likely to have previously used EC in the study year, but half of all repeat users were aged 20 and older. Asked why EC was needed today, most women reported regular contraception, but almost a quarter had unprotected sex, and half reported a condom mishap.

The study concluded that frequent repeat use of EC does not support recent research based on general practice records, which suggests that repeat use is rare. If EC users use multiple EC sources or prefer alternative sources, repeat use of EC will be underestimated if calculated using general practitioner (GP) records alone.