The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

A Phenomenological Inquiry Into Men's Experiences With and Perceptions of Emergency Contraception

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Rachel L. Wright, PhD, Researcher, Independent Research Consultant, Spokane, WA
Caren J. Frost, PhD, Associate Director, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Peter R. Fawson, PhD, Assistant Professor, Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA
David K. Turok, MD, Assistant Professor (Clinical), University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
Background and Purpose: Men impact the use of contraception, as well as which method is selected for use. Issues including personal preference, access, cost, and the impact of sexual partners influence method selection.  While most sexually active adults have utilized a method of contraception at one point, numerous barriers affect consistent contraceptive use. When contraception is not used or under performs (a condom breaks or pills are missed) emergency contraception (EC), reduces a woman’s risk of pregnancy after unprotected intercourse. The move to include men in reproductive health care discussions and research is an important and growing area.  Yet little EC research involves males. The purpose of this qualitative study was to answer “What are the experiences with and perceptions about EC among heterosexually active men?”

Methods: Four focus groups were moderated by a male facilitator and were held with three to five participants in each group for a total of 15 heterosexually active males aged 18 to 40 (M=32 years).  Participants were recruited from a university setting.  Purposive and snowball sampling techniques were utilized. This qualitative study utilized a phenomenological approach to data gathering and analysis.  Phenomenology is the exploration of an individual’s lived experiences, and the meanings created about a particular phenomenon.  Data were analyzed by two researchers and initial themes were reviewed by three study participants.  

Results: There were four thematic findings illustrating the phenomenon of how the participants perceived and experienced EC: meaning of unprotected intercourse/method failure, the meaning of EC, woman’s body/woman’s decision, and sense of responsibility.  Unprotected intercourse was described as ‘irresponsible’ and being ‘caught up in the moment’.  While not necessarily personally viewing EC as reckless, participants believed stigma still exists towards those who access it.  Participants held no knowledge about the copper IUD’s ability to function as EC and were unclear about how EC functions.  Participants did not know how their partners perceived EC because no discussion had occurred with their partners around EC use.  Although the use of EC was defined as a female’s choice, feelings of powerlessness and frustration were used in describing the possibility of their partner choosing not to use EC and the consequences of a potential unintended pregnancy.

Conclusions and Implications: This study provides insight into heterosexually active men’s perceptions of and experiences with EC, and the meanings they assign them.  Reproductive health education should expand to provide further information on how EC functions, and include information on the copper IUD’s ability to function as both EC and a long-term method of contraception. 

Health care providers and social work practitioners should expand conversations around EC to male clients, and frame EC and contraceptive methods as both male and female issues.  Expanding clinic policies around healthcare provider conversations with male clients may increase knowledge around EC and address issues of its use, available methods, and implications.  Future research should explore the experiences of healthcare providers in providing information on EC to patients and the impact of a patient’s sex on EC discussion.