April 2020

Contraceptive use and access among deployed US servicewomen: Findings from an online survey

Seymour J, Fix L, Grossman D, Grindlay K. Contraceptive use and access among deployed US servicewomen: Findings from an online survey. BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjsrh-2019-200569

Background: This study aimed to survey US servicewomen on their contraceptive access and use during deployment.

Methods: Between June 2016 and July 2017, we conducted a cross-sectional online survey among a convenience sample of current and former members of the US Military, National Guard and Reserves who had a deployment ending in 2010 or later. Participants were asked open-ended and closed-ended questions about their demographics and contraceptive use and access before and during their last deployment. Descriptive statistics were run on closed-ended questions and responses to open-ended questions were inductively coded.

Results: A total of 353 participants were included. Sixty-five per cent reported using contraception during all or part of their last deployment. Nearly half (49.3%) did not have or remember having a discussion with a military care provider about contraception prior to deployment. Both prior to and during deployment, the free or low cost of birth control and ability to get a full supply for deployment facilitated contraceptive use. Difficulty obtaining an appointment and the inability to get a full supply of birth control were barriers to contraception access both before and during deployment. Half (49.1%) of respondents who had to start or refill contraception during deployment said it was somewhat or very difficult to do so.

Conclusions: For at least some servicewomen, there are barriers to contraceptive access and use prior to and during overseas deployment. Programmes to increase contraceptive access should be expanded and monitoring systems should be implemented to ensure all servicemembers receive predeployment contraceptive counselling.