One third of women are not currently using any form of contraception, according to a new report.The study of women aged 18 to 45 in the Leinster region also found that 12 per cent rely only on ‘natural’ options such as the rhythm method or withdrawal, or other traditional forms of contraception.
Conducted on behalf of Bayer Healthcare, the study aimed to assess attitudes towards contraception ahead of the publication of a free booklet giving guidance on the options available to women in Ireland.
Condom usage was reported by 27 percent of respondents, with the same number using short-acting hormonal contraception such as the pill.
The figures also showed that in the last two years, one in six Leinster women surveyed (16%) had accessed emergency contraception, with five per cent accessing it more than once.
In spite of this, 33 per cent of women said that accessing emergency contraception did not prompt them to look at their long-term contraception needs.
Only one in 12 women reported starting hormonal contraception within weeks of beginning a new relationship, rising to 15 per cent within a month.
“I’m surprised that such a high number of women in Leinster are not using any contraception,” said Dr Shirley McQuade medical director of the Dublin Well Woman Centre.
“Even when you remove those women who are planning on having a child this year (10%), that still leaves one Leinster woman in four (23%) who are neither using contraception nor planning on getting pregnant within the year.
“The typical woman needs to consider contraception for up to 30 years of her life,” she added.
Noting that more than three-quarters of women surveyed in Leinster are not planning to have a child for at least a year, Dr McQuade underlined the availability of “long-acting options that a significant number of Irish women of every age could consider – like intrauterine contraception, hormonal implants, and injections, all of which are reversible.
“These options will guard against pregnancy from between three months and over five years,” said Dr McQuade. “They cost more up front, but work out cheaper in the long run, so you should talk to your doctor and make sure the choices you have are the right ones for you.”
Awareness of long-acting forms of contraception is moderate, and more than half of women in Leinster (61%) recognised it is suitable for women of all ages. However, usage in the region is low: 11 per cent have had an injection, five per cent have used an intrauterine system (a hormonal coil, which differs from a copper coil) and nine per cent have had a hormonal implant. Willingness to try such methods is about double the usage figures, according to the study.
More information can be found in the booklet A Smart Woman’s Guide to Contraception, available to download free from the website mycontraception.ie.