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GPs 'embarrassed to ask' about STIs

GPs have been urged to overcome 'shyness' to improve prevention of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies

A GP family planning expert says GPs are missing opportunities to talk to young women about contraception and STIs because they are embarrassed.

Guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends that GPs discuss contraception and STIs with women asking for emergency contraception and says that those at high risk should be screened for chlamydia.

But researchers at the University of Birmingham found that GPs only discussed STIs with 2.8% of women who wanted emergency contraception and future contraceptive needs with 60% of patients.

The audit of medical notes in six general practices in the West Midlands also found that chlamydia tests were undertaken in only 15 out of 718 consultations for emergency contraception (1.7%). In only 10 (1.4%) of the consultations was the IUD discussed with the patient as an alternative form of emergency contraception, although the guidance calls for all patients to be informed of the choice.

Study leader Dr Helen Webberley, a GP in Pontypool, Gwent, said: 'It will take generations to address because GPs are too shy and embarrassed to ask about patients' sex lives.' She added: 'Male GPs are worried about offending young women, but we used to be worried about asking old ladies about their bowels.'

The study, which is published in this month's Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, concluded that GPs should target women asking for emergency contraception with STI and contraceptive information to help fight high levels of chlamydia rates and unplanned pregnancies in the UK.

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