Prevalence and correlates of contraceptive use and abortion in Quebec (Canada): Results from the UQAM students Sexual Health Survey
ESC Congress Library. Levesque S. May 28, 2014; 50627; A-212
Prof. Sylvie Levesque
Prof. Sylvie Levesque
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In Quebec (Canada), the health and social services system is public, allowing for hospital access and medical services free of charge. Hormonal contraception (HC) and emergency contraception (EC) are also available at no cost to youth under 18 years of age and full-time students aged 25 and under, and at little cost to other women through the Public Prescription Drug Insurance Plan. Following recent strategies to facilitate access to contraception, nurses and pharmacists are now allowed to prescribe HC. Reproductive rights have also expanded through increased access to abortion. Since 2006, following a class action lawsuit against the Quebec government, women have had access to free abortion services in a timely manner.

Following the implementation of these initiatives and in the absence of recent data on university students’ contraceptive trends, a clearer picture of the sexual and reproductive health of this population was required in order to guide future initiatives. More specifically, our goal was to explore: 1) the desire for parenthood and access to contraceptive methods; 2) knowledge of emergency contraception, its accessibility, and its use and, 3) the prevalence of abortion and its correlates.
More than 3100 young adult university students participated in an online multidimensional study, « UQAM students Sexual Health Survey », from October to November 2013. This cross-sectional study covered many aspects of sexual health, including sexual attitudes and experiences, sexual diversity, STIs and reproductive health, sexual satisfaction, victimization, bullying and discrimination.

Statistical analyses on a sub-sample of sexually active women (n= 1992) showed that, although a high proportion want to become parents, three-quarters of them also want to postpone this event. However, among the sexually active respondents not wanting a child now, withdrawal is the 3rd most used contraceptive method (used by almost one out of five young adults). Some respondents report never having used a contraceptive method in the past 2 years, even if they did not want to become parents. Knowledge of EC is low among the respondents: a minority were unaware of the hormonal method while the majority didn't know about the post-coital copper intrauterine device (IUD). More than 9 out of 10 were unaware of the recommended delays when using EC. While the prevalence of abortion is low among the sampled group, it is linked to a migratory trajectory and the age of first intercourse, among other factors. Repeat abortions are infrequent among the sample study.

While public health authorities have dedicated a significant amount of work to this topic in the past few years, results of this study demonstrate a need for increased awareness and education on contraception among university students.
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