Recession sees women use 'less effective' contraception


WOMEN ARE resorting to less-reliable forms of contraception because of the economic downturn, according to the annual report of the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), published today.

It says women are choosing ultimately more expensive methods of contraception such as the pill because they cannot afford the initial outlay for more effective long-term methods such as the implant or coil.

The pill costs €4-€13 a month, giving an average yearly outlay of more than €150. Implanted forms of contraception cost €300 but last three years, while the coil costs a similar amount and is effective for five years.

“Long-term contraception also works better with failure rates of one per 1,000 or less, while the pill is less effective,” says Niall Behan, chief executive of the association.

The association, which has had its budget cut by more than 4 per cent, says it is unable to meet increased demand from medical card patients last year and had to refer some of these patients back to their GPs. Others experienced significant delays.

“The Government needs to provide adequate resources for family planning services or risk a reversal of the many social and economic benefits women living in Ireland have enjoyed thanks to modern methods of family planning,” the report says.

The association experienced a significant increase in demand for post-abortion counselling, which accounted for nearly half the counselling client base. The number of women seeking post-abortion care grew by 85 per cent last year, on top of a 42 per cent increase the previous year.

“This increase in demand for post-abortion counselling is due to improved awareness of the availability of IFPA’s post-abortion counselling services, breakdown of stigma associated with the procedure and women’s increasing willingness to discuss abortion,” according to the report.

The trend is also evidence of an increased openness about crisis pregnancy in Ireland, it says.

“It seems to us there is a greater willingness to talk openly about abortion. Some of the stigma is starting to break down. It’s been in the media and there is better understanding around why women go for terminations,” says Mr Behan. “People are less inclined to be judgmental about women’s decisions.”

While welcoming the decision by the Irish Medicines Board to allow pharmacies sell emergency contraception over the counter, the association said this led to a reduction in private patients visiting its clinics.

It says it is looking forward to the availability in Irish pharmacies of the EllaOne contraceptive pill which can be taken up to five days after intercourse.

The association wants the Government to provide every young person with a free test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea and includes these two diseases in screening for pregnant women. Since 1995, the number of people testing positive for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has increased each year, it notes.

“Despite much public debate concerning the incidence of STIs in Ireland, there remains a failure to develop adequate and accessible screening services. STI screening is not covered under the medical card scheme and screening services for young people, the group with the highest incidence of STIs, are insufficient and inequitable.”

Last year, almost 19,000 people attended at the association’s two clinics in Dublin.