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Questions about My Contraception Tool

Here you will find more information about My Contraception Tool - how it works, how to use it and what happens if you have a question when you've finished.

We will keep updating these Q&As with questions you ask us. If you have a question which isn't answered here, please email us. Please note this email address is for information about the tool specifically, if you would like information about contraception please go to the Ask Brook 24/7 tool.

The questions are in three categories. We have also included some information about who is the project team behind My Contraception Tool. 

Using My Contraception Tool

Can anyone use the tool?
Yes! The tool can be used if you are male or female and whatever age you are.

How long does it take to go through the tool?
It depends on whether you take the long questionnaire or the short one. The long one is more detailed and takes about 20 minutes. The short one will only take about five minutes.

Do I have to register to use the tool?
No, you don't. And you don't have to put in your name or any other information which will identify you. You remain completely anonymous.

Will it ask me personal questions?
Yes, to give you the best support and advice, the tool will need to know some personal information about your sex life, so make sure you're happy to answer questions about how many people you've had sex with, and how you feel about contraception, before you launch My Contraception Tool.

Do I have to answer all the questions?
Some of the questions are required for the tool to work, but you don't have to answer everything. However, the more questions you feel able to answer, the more relevant to you the results will be.

What are the blue bars?
The blue bars allow you to indicate how important the attributes you chose from a list in the questionnaire are to you. You can use the mouse to click and move the blue bars to show how strongly you feel about them, the more blue in the bar, the more it matters to you.

Can I go back and change my answers?
Yes, until you submit your answers you can go back and change them. If you have submitted your answers, you will have to go through the tool from the start again.

What should I do if my circumstances change?
You can go through the tool anytime you like, and if something has changed in your life, you may want to think about a different method of contraception. Come back and try out the tool anytime!

I am concerned about the long term health effects of using contraception
My Contraceptive Tool does not address any long-term health benefits or adverse events associated with different contraceptive methods. If you would like any more information about the long-term effects of any contraceptive method, you should talk to someone at Brook or your GP or another healthcare professional. Find your nearest service.

I am concerned about any hormone-based contraceptive method. Will the tool let me rule them all out?
No, it won't. We need to know what specific hormone-related side effects worry you, and which it is most important for you to avoid, in order to give the most appropriate response.

I have more questions or comments about the tool
If you have any questions or comments about the tool, please email us at website@brook.org.uk and we will try and answer them as soon as possible. Please note this email address is for information about the tool specifically, if you would like to speak to a Brook advisor for information about contraception please contact us in one of these ways.

If you need to speak to somebody urgently outside of Ask Brook hours, you can call NHS 111 for medical advice 24 hours a day by dialling 111 (call charges apply).

What will happen to comments I make about the site?
The project team behind My Contraception Tool will look at all feedback and comments and using it to make changes and improvements to the tool.

Questions about how My Contraception Tool works

How are the results calculated in My Contraception Tool?
Your scores for each contraceptive method (represented by the length of the yellow bars in the results screen), are calculated by combining two things.

First is the importance you give to the contraceptive attributes or characteristics (such as how important it is for you to avoid pregnancy). This is called your 'weightings'.

Second are the 'ratings' for each contraceptive attribute. These are based on the latest research data (such as the chance of getting pregnant when using a contraceptive method) and, where appropriate, your personal difficulty ratings (such as how difficult you would find it having to remember to take or use contraception). The contraceptive option that performs best is given a rating of 1 (that is 100%) and the others proportionately lower ratings.

The results for each attribute are added up to produce a score for each contraceptive option.

Where does the evidence used to inform the results come from?
A 'systematic' approach has been used to collect the evidence. The first port of call was to go through the Faculty of Sexual & Reproductive Health Care Clinical Guidelines. If no evidence was found the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews was searched, followed by searches through Google Scholar and reference lists. Levels of evidence were as follows:

  1. Faculty guidelines
  2. Cochrane
  3. Randomised controlled trials
  4. Prospective studies
  5. Retrospective studies
  6. Reviews.

The evidence has been collated, and includes summary information on source, type of evidence, study population (where applicable), findings and any general comments. If you would like any information on the evidence used in the tool please contact Rebecca.French@lshtm.ac.uk.

Are typical or contraceptive method failure rates used?
Typical failure rates are used in My Contraception Tool. If a contraceptive method has been used consistently and correctly, any pregnancy is due to failure of that method. Typical failure rates take account of any inconsistent or incorrect use of that method.

I don't live in the UK. Are the results still valid?
Wherever possible, the research was gathered from or relevant to the UK. If you are outside the UK, you can still do the tool, but you should explain that it is a UK-based tool to your healthcare provider when you discuss the results.

Questions about the results you get from My Contraception Tool

The full range of contraceptive methods was not shown on the results page. Why not?
Some contraceptive methods will have been ruled out for you, based on the answers you gave to the questions. So, for example, if you have indicated that you might want children in the future, the option of sterilisation will have been removed.

I made the blue bar really long to show that I was really concerned about sexually transmitted infections why didn't condoms come up best?
Because the tool also took into account your other preferences and then looked at the evidence supporting each method. So, whilst condoms are the most effective protection against STIs and should always be used for that purpose, they may not be the most appropriate form of contraception in every instance.

I'm not sure that the results really reflect my preferences
If you are really surprised by the result, or don't feel that it truly reflects your preferences, spend some time changing the blue bars and looking that the impact each change has on the recommendation. So, for example, even if you say that you would really not want to go to a clinic for contraception, the implant may still be recommended for you if your other preferences indicate it more strongly and the evidence supports that.

I'm male, why was a method that a woman would have to use recommended?
If you are a man, you may find that some of the answers are more appropriate for use by a woman, but they will still be recommended in your situation as it is assumed you are looking at the tool because you wish to prevent a pregnancy. We have also assumed that you are asking about the most effective contraceptive method for you to use as a couple when you have sex and wish to prevent a pregnancy and this will usually be a method used by women.

Why was I asked about side effects from a female partner's viewpoint when I haven't got a female partner at the moment?
Because it will still make a difference to the kind of contraception you might choose to use if you do have a female partner.

Where can I get further advice or find out about services?
You can find information on Brook's website legacy.brook.org.uk, the FPA website www.fpa.org.uk and NHS Choices. You can also go to Ask Brook.

Who is the project team that created My Contraception Tool?

Brook and FPA worked with a team of software developers, academics and researchers to create My Contraception Tool. More information on the key players is below.

Maldaba Ltd. is a software company specialising in web applications for health research. The majority of its business is with not-for-profit healthcare organisations, including Brook, FPA, University College London, the Institute of Child Health, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the University of Sydney, Australia.

My Contraception Tool is built using two pieces of proprietary software developed by Maldaba. Annalisa is a multi-criteria decision aid (MCDA) with a single screen interface that allows the user to create and explore decision-making scenarios. Elicia is a general-purpose web-based questionnaire builder.

Embedding Annalisa within Elicia provides a powerful combination that allows the decision-making process to be personalised according to questionnaire responses. Annalisa was developed in collaboration with (and is jointly owned by) Professor Jack Dowie, whilst Elicia is wholly owned by Maldaba Ltd.

For more information, contact Lorenzo Gordon on 07866 462 710, or e-mail info@maldaba.co.uk.

Rebecca French, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr Rebecca French is a Senior Lecturer in Sexual and Reproductive Health Research within the Department of Social and Environmental Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Her main research interests are in contraceptive use and decision-making and sexual health service delivery. She is responsible for the content of My Contraception Tool, including collation of the underlying evidence base. She can be contacted via email, Rebecca.French@lshtm.ac.uk.

Jack Dowie
Jack Dowie is Professor Emeritus of Health Impact Analysis at the London School of hygiene and Tropical Medicine and is responsible for the conceptual and theoretical basis of My Contraception Tool. He is an independent consultant in Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis and hosts a website based on Annalisa (http://www.cafeannalisa.org.uk). He can be contacted at jack.dowie@lshtm.ac.uk.

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