Canadian Contraception Consensus (Part 2 of 4) Academic Article uri icon

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  • OBJECTIVE: To provide guidelines for health care providers on the use of contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy and on the promotion of healthy sexuality. OUTCOMES: Guidance for Canadian practitioners on overall effectiveness, mechanism of action, indications, contraindications, non-contraceptive benefits, side effects and risks, and initiation of cited contraceptive methods; family planning in the context of sexual health and general well-being; contraceptive counselling methods; and access to, and availability of, cited contraceptive methods in Canada. EVIDENCE: Published literature was retrieved through searches of Medline and The Cochrane Database from January 1994 to January 2015 using appropriate controlled vocabulary (e.g., contraception, sexuality, sexual health) and key words (e.g., contraception, family planning, hormonal contraception, emergency contraception). Results were restricted to systematic reviews, randomized control trials/controlled clinical trials, and observational studies published in English from January 1994 to January 2015. Searches were updated on a regular basis and incorporated in the guideline to June 2015. Grey (unpublished) literature was identified through searching the websites of health technology assessment and health technology-related agencies, clinical practice guideline collections, clinical trial registries, and national and international medical specialty societies. VALUES: The quality of the evidence in this document was rated using the criteria described in the Report of the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care (Table). Chapter 1: Contraception in Canada Summary Statements  1. Canadian women spend a significant portion of their lives at risk of an unintended pregnancy. (II-2)  2. Effective contraceptive methods are underutilized in Canada, particularly among vulnerable populations. (II-2)  3. Long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, including contraceptive implants and intrauterine contraception (copper-releasing and levonorgestrel-releasing devices/systems), are the most effective reversible contraceptive methods and have the highest continuation rates. (II-1)  4. Canada currently does not collect reliable data to determine the use of contraceptive methods, abortion rates, and the prevalence of unintended pregnancy among reproductive-age women. (II-2)  5. A universal subsidy for contraceptive methods as provided by many of Canada's peer nations and a few Canadian provinces may produce health system cost-savings. (II-2)  6. Health Canada approval processes for contraceptives have been less efficient than those of other drug approval agencies and Health Canada processes for other classes of pharmaceuticals. (II-2)  7. It is feasible and safe for contraceptives and family planning services to be provided by appropriately trained allied health professionals such as midwives, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists. (II-2) Recommendations 1. Contraceptive counselling should include a discussion of typical use failure rates and the importance of using the contraceptive method consistently and correctly in order to avoid pregnancy. (II-2A) 2. Women seeking contraception should be counselled on the wide range of effective methods of contraception available, including long-acting reversible contraceptive methods (LARCs). LARCs are the most effective methods of reversible contraception, have high continuation rates, and should be considered when presenting contraceptive options to any woman of reproductive age. (II-2A) 3. Family planning counselling should include counselling on the decline of fertility associated with increasing female age. (III-A) 4. Health policy supporting a universal contraception subsidy and strategies to promote the uptake of highly effective methods as cost-saving measures that improve health and health equity should be considered by Canadian health decision makers. (III-B) 5. Canadian health jurisdictions should consider expanding the scope of practice of other trained professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, midwives, and pharmacists and promoting task-sharing in family planning. (II-2B) 6. The Canadian Community Health Survey should include adequate reproductive health indicators in order for health care providers and policy makers to make appropriate decisions regarding reproductive health policies and services in Canada. (III-B) 7. Health Canada processes and policies should be reviewed to ensure a wide range of modern contraceptive methods are available to Canadian women. (III-B) Chapter 2: Contraceptive Care and Access Summary Statements  8. Although there are many contraceptive options in Canada, only a narrow range of contraceptive methods are commonly used by those of reproductive age. (II-3)  9. Condom use decreases with longer relationship tenure and when the sexual partner is considered to be the main partner, likely due to a lower perceived risk of sexually transmitted infection in that relationship. Condom use may also decrease markedly as an unintended consequence when an effective non-barrier method, such as hormonal contraception or intrauterine contraception, is initiated. (II-3) 10. Family planning counselling provides a natural segue into screening for concerns about sexual function or intimate partner violence. (III) 11. Well-informed and well-motivated individuals who have developed skills to practise safer sex behaviours are more likely to use contraceptive and safer sex methods effectively and consistently. (II-2) Recommendations 8. Comprehensive family planning services, including abortion services, should be accessible to all Canadians regardless of geographic location. These services should be confidential, non-judgemental, and respectful of individuals' privacy and cultural contexts. (III-A) 9. A contraceptive visit should include history taking, screening for contraindications, dispensing or prescribing a method of contraception, and exploring contraceptive choice and adherence in the broader context of the individual's sexual behaviour, reproductive health risk, social circumstances, and relevant belief systems. (III-B) 10. Health care providers should provide practical information on the wide range of contraceptive options and their potential non-contraceptive benefits and assist women and their partners in determining the best user-method fit. (III-B) 11. Health care providers should assist women and men in developing the skills necessary to negotiate the use of contraception and the correct and consistent use of a chosen method. (III-B) 12. Contraceptive care should include discussion and management of the risk of sexually transmitted infection, including appropriate recommendations for condom use and dual protection, STI screening, post-exposure prophylaxis, and Hepatitis B and human papillomavirus vaccination. (III-B) 13. Health care providers should emphasize the use of condoms not only for protection against sexually transmitted infection, but also as a back-up method when adherence to a hormonal contraceptive may be suboptimal. (I-A) 14. Health care providers should be aware of current media controversies in reproductive health and acquire relevant evidence-based information that can be briefly and directly communicated to their patients. (III-B) 15. Referral resources for intimate partner violence, sexually transmitted infections, sexual dysfunction, induced abortion services, and child protection services should be available to help clinicians provide contraceptive care in the broader context of women's health. (III-B) Chapter 3: Emergency Contraception Summary Statements 12. The copper intrauterine device is the most effective method of emergency contraception. (II-2) 13. A copper intrauterine device can be used for emergency contraception up to 7 days after unprotected intercourse provided that pregnancy has been ruled out and there are no other contraindications to its insertion. (II-2) 14. Levonorgestrel emergency contraception is effective up to 5 days (120 hours) after intercourse; its effectiveness decreases as the time between unprotected intercourse and ingestion increases. (II-2) 15. Ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception is more effective than levonorgestrel emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse. This difference in effectiveness is more pronounced as the time from unprotected intercourse increases, especially after 72 hours. (I) 16. Hormonal emergency contraception (levonorgestrel emergency contraception and ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception) is not effective if taken on the day of ovulation or after ovulation. (II-2) 17. Levonorgestrel emergency contraception may be less effective in women with a body mass index > 25 kg/m2 and ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception may be less effective in women with a body mass index > 35 kg/m2. However, hormonal emergency contraception may still retain some effectiveness regardless of a woman's body weight or body mass index. (II-2) 18. Hormonal emergency contraception is associated with higher failure rates when women continue to have subsequent unprotected intercourse. (II-2) 19. Hormonal contraception can be initiated the day of or the day following the use of levonorgestrel emergency contraception, with back-up contraception used for the first 7 days. (III) 20. Hormonal contraception can be initiated 5 days following the use of ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception, with back-up contraception used for the first 14 days. (III) Recommendations 16. All emergency contraception should be initiated as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse. (II-2A) 17. Women should be informed that the copper intrauterine device (IUD) is the most effective method of emergency contraception and can be used by any woman with no contraindications to IUD use. (II-3A) 18.


  • Black, Amanda
  • Guilbert, Edith
  • Costescu, Dustin James
  • Dunn, Sheila
  • Fisher, William
  • Kives, Sari
  • Mirosh, Melissa
  • Norman, Wendy V
  • Pymar, Helen
  • Reid, Robert
  • Roy, Geneviève
  • Varto, Hannah
  • Waddington, Ashley
  • Wagner, Marie-Soleil
  • Whelan, Anne Marie
  • Ferguson, Carrie
  • Fortin, Claude
  • Kielly, Maria
  • Mansouri, Shireen
  • Todd, Nicole

publication date

  • November 2015