More than one quarter (29%) of sexually active women aged 16 to 54 in the UK* have had unprotected sex in the last two years and not used emergency contraception, despite saying they were not planning a pregnancy.
The UK’s leading sexual health charity Family Planning Association (FPA) released the findings to mark the beginning of its annual Sexual Health Week, and is calling for better education to help women avoid unplanned pregnancies.
The charity’s survey of more than 2,000 women across the UK found some shocking results around women’s knowledge of contraception, which health experts warned act as barriers to getting the right information, advice and treatment they need, at the time they need it.
Herefordshire Council has joined the campaign to raise awareness of contraceptive options and help break down the myths and misinformation.
- More than one-third (39%) of women aged 16 to 54 thought asking for emergency contraception can be embarrassing and said there is still a stigma around it. This was particularly felt among 16-24-year-olds (52%).
- One-half of women wrongly thought that using emergency contraception effectively causes an abortion, or weren’t sure.
- 43% of women said they would not know where to get emergency contraception if they needed it.
- Only one in six women (16%) said they thought health professionals provide enough information on the different methods of emergency contraception that is available.
- Just 17% of women learnt about emergency contraception at school or college.
Cllr Powell,Cabinet Member Health and Wellbeing said “we are fully supportive of the FPAs campaign and hope to help dispense some of the myths surrounding the issue of contraception. The FPA website is full of advice about what to do if you have had unprotected sex and we urge anyone who is not sure about their options to look at the website for help and guidance.”
FPA’s Director of Health and Wellbeing Natika Halil said: “We know there are lots of reasons women may choose not to use emergency contraception when they aren’t planning a pregnancy – including that they are happy to leave it to chance.
“However, our research has shown many barriers exist for women – including a lack of knowledge of what emergency contraception is; how it works and where you can get it. There are also endless myths and misconceptions which are banded about, which leave many women with a real sense of confusion and worry.”
- Condoms are the only form of contraception (when used correctly) which help prevent pregnancy AND sexually transmitted infections.
- There are 15 methods of contraception, including 13 for women. These include four methods that we call long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) because once used they can be effective for between eight weeks and 10 years. You can find out about the different methods and which might be most suitable by using FPA’s My Contraception Tool.
- Emergency contraception can help to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if your contraceptive method has failed, it’s not a regular form of contraception.
- There are three methods of emergency contraception and they can be used up to varying time limits after unprotected sex. Unprotected sex doesn’t just mean you haven’t used any contraception at all – sometimes methods can fail, for example a condom splitting.
- The two emergency hormonal pills that are available are Levonelle, available from GP’s, Community Pharmacies and the sexual health clinic (based in Gaol Street Hereford), can be taken up to three days after unprotected sex, and ellaOne, which is available from GP’s and the integrated sexual health clinic (based in Gaol Street Hereford), can be taken up to five days after sex.
- A third option, which is very reliable is the emergency IUD, sometimes called the coil, which can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex and can then be left to act as a regular method of contraception for up to five years. It can be removed at any time, and does not affect your fertility.
Ask about your options:
- Talk to your GP, pharmacists or sexual health clinic about your contraceptive options
- To find out what local services offer contraception visit www.herefordshire.gov.uk and search ‘sexual health’.
- Find out more about the 15 methods of contraception, visit the Family Planning Association’s website at www.fpa.org.uk