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Over half of Irish women are using ineffective contraception to prevent pregnancy, a new study shows


By Megan Burns
25th Nov 2020
Over half of Irish women are using ineffective contraception to prevent pregnancy, a new study shows

Although 87 per cent of those surveyed cited pregnancy prevention as their main reason for using contraception, the majority of women used the least effective forms of contraception in preventing pregnancy.


Although Ireland has come a long way from the country that only legalised contraception in the mid-80s, many women still cannot access the most effective contraceptive method for them. A new study commissioned by the Dublin Well Woman Centre, a not-for-profit organisation, and carried out by Empathy Research, has revealed that most women in Ireland use forms of contraception that are proven to be least effective in preventing pregnancy.

The research, which was conducted in March 2020 on a national sample of over 1,000 women aged 17 – 45, revealed that the contraceptive pill and condoms are the most common forms of contraception used, with 28 per cent of respondents using the contraceptive pill and 27 per cent relying on condoms to prevent pregnancy. However, these two methods have been shown to be the two that fail most often, according to medical research.

The survey also found that of women whose contraception has failed, 35 per cent have said it resulted in a pregnancy.

It seems that this is due to a number of factors, including difficulty accessing more reliable forms of contraception, as well as an unawareness of the failure rates of these popular methods. Over half of women surveyed were unaware that condoms have a failure rate of 17 per cent in typical use, and just under half didn’t know that the pill has a failure rate of 9 per cent.

Shirley McQuade, Medical Director of the Dublin Well Woman Centre said, “The research has shown us that women face many barriers to accessing the most appropriate forms of contraception. All women should be able to access contraception that is most appropriate for them, and free of charge. There is no one right form of contraception for each woman and many will change what contraception they use over time.”

She noted that Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) are more reliable than both the contraceptive pill and condoms, and also more cost-effective over time.

“At the Dublin Well Woman Centre we fit an increasing amount of LARCs every year. They are more dependable than other popular forms of contraception such as the pill or condom, whose effectiveness depends on rigorously compliant use. Implants and coils are more than 99% effective. LARCs have an extremely high rate of success, and thus are our best chance of reducing the incidence of unintended pregnancy.”

Alison Begas, Chief Executive of the Well Woman centre, also noted that access to free contraception was a recommendation made by the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, and was included in the Programme  for Government earlier this year for women aged 17 – 25 years. “We are calling on Government to prioritise its Programme for Government commitment as a first step in rolling out a fully State-funded contraception scheme to all women in their reproductive years.”

Featured image: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition via Unsplash


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