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The World Health Organization defines emergency contraception (EC) as a means to prevent unwanted pregnancy. In countries where EC is dispensed behind the counter, emergency departments are a preferred point of care for its prescription and dispensing. In light of this situation and as no studies on emergency contraception in emergency departments in Italy have been conducted to date, this study was designed with a view to analyze the responses of emergency room physicians in relation to their prescribing habits and knowledge about the drug and in relation to frequency and profile of women arriving for care at hospital emergency departments in Piedmont and requesting prescription for the morning-after pill. This cross-sectional survey involved 29 hospital emergency departments in Piedmont where no gynecologists are on active duty. The survey instrument was a 24-item questionnaire. Analysis of responses revealed that in the physicians’ opinion the vast majority of requests came from Italian nationals (97%) ranging in age from 18 to 30 years (76%), single and not cohabiting with a partner (60%), and nulliparous (64.0%). Women mostly request EC for first-time and the most common reasons were condom breakage or slippage. Just over half the physicians (52%) stated that emergency contraception prescription was not an appropriate part of care provided at an emergency department and 72% stated they felt uneasy about prescribing emergency contraception. The survey also revealed gaps in physician knowledge about the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of emergency contraception pills.
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