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Stud Fam Plann. 1988 Jul-Aug;19(4):215-26.

Physicians' views of periodic abstinence methods: a study in four countries.

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  • 1Institute of Population Studies, University of Exeter, UK.


A study of the knowledge, perceptions, and behavioral intentions of physicians regarding periodic abstinence (PA) methods was undertaken in Mauritius, Peru, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Most respondents considered PA to be useful, although even the PA providers prescribed mainly non-PA methods. Detailed knowledge of PA methods was not evident, but most physicians were willing to initiate general discussion about PA with patients. Physicians favored methods perceived as "scientific" and "modern," which primarily prevent pregnancy and secondarily avoid other health risks. When carefully presented as "scientific" and "modern," methods presented to medical audiences may find acceptance and be more likely to result in referral.


This study attempts to assess the level of knowledge about periodic abstinence methods and willingness to communicate that knowledge to patients among a sample of 375 physicians from 4 developing countries: Mauritius, Peru, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. For purposes of this study, periodic abstinence includes the calendar method (rhythm), the Billings method (ovulation method), the temperature method (basal body temperature), and the sympto-thermal method (temperature and cervical mucus observation). 54% of the doctors interviewed did not provide periodic abstinence services. 67% were male, 60% were over 40, 92% were not strongly Catholic, and 42% were general practitioners. Older doctors, female doctors, and strongly Catholic doctors were most likely to provide periodic abstinence services. 54% of providers were general practitioners, 46% were gynecologists, and 36% were clinicians. Both providers and nonproviders were most likely to recommend the pill or the IUD as a contraceptive method. The calendar method was the most commonly provided abstinence method. Providers, in general, had more knowledge about abstinence methods than did nonproviders, but even providers were deficient in knowledge about methods that they did not supply. Of the 3 main abstinence methods, the calendar method was perceived as most traditional, the Billings method as most modern. The sympto-thermal method was perceived as modern but also as "artificial." On a scale of 1 to 7 from bad/nonscientific to good/scientific, the pill scored highest (6.4), while the temperature, Billings, and calendar methods scored 5.2 or 5.1. 47% of all the physicians surveyed said that they would not recommend periodic abstinence to their patients. The majority said that they would respond to inquiries about these methods but would not initiate discussions about them. Among nonproviders, 12% said they would seek future training, but 17% said they had no future plans for either training or service.

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