November 1995

The emergency contraceptive pill: a survey of knowledge and attitudes among students at Princeton University

Harper C, Ellertson C. The emergency contraceptive pill: a survey of knowledge and attitudes among students at Princeton University. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Nov;173(5):1438-45

Objective: Our purpose was to measure and analyze knowledge and attitudes about emergency contraceptive pills. The hypothesis we tested was that more accurate knowledge about the regimen would be associated with favorable attitudes towards its use.

Study Design: We conducted a random sample telephone survey and a series of focus group discussions at Princeton University (results for 11 focus groups are presented elsewhere) A total of 550 undergraduate and graduate students were selected randomly for participation in the survey, and the response rate was 82%. The study's primary outcome measure was attitudes toward the emergency contraceptive pill as a method of fertility control. We used multivariate regression analysis with ordered logit models to test the hypothesized association between knowledge and attitudes.

Results: Basic awareness and approval of the emergency contraceptive pill were widespread, yet students lacked detailed knowledge, which did contribute to health and ethical misgivings about the regimen. Students with accurate information, especially those students who knew that the therapy is a large dose of regular oral contraceptives and that side effects are generally minor, were significantly more likely than others to report favorable attitudes. Many students confused the pills dispensed by the university health services (Oral, Wyeth-Ayerst, Philadelphia) with the abortifacient RU 486. Students noted discussion of the method is rare, and many wanted to know more about it. Statistical results are reported with a 95% confidence level.

Conclusions: Educational efforts should offer specific information about the composition of emergency contraceptive pills, the side effects, and how the regimen works.