Almost a third of Irish couples have used the 'withdrawal method' as contraception

Research from the Irish Family Planning Association shows that 30% of Irish couples rely on the ‘withdrawal method’ of contraception, or have in the past.

38% of Irish couples report using no method of contraception in their relationship.

The research, according to the IFPA, was conducted amongst a nationally representative sample of Irish adults, 72% of whom were in a committed relationship. Almost half (49%) were between the ages of 35 and 54 and 34% were aged 18 to 34.

The research showed that that 24% of all women surveyed reported experiencing an unplanned or crisis pregnancy in the past.

Among 18-34-year-olds, 16% reported experiencing unplanned pregnancy.

Unplanned or crisis pregnancy is defined by the IFPA as a pregnancy which is neither planned nor desired by the woman concerned and which represents a personal crisis for her.

The new research also showed that:

25% of adults in a relationship use a condom as their primary contraceptive method

19% of women in a relationship use an oral contraceptive pill

17% of all male respondents in a relationship stated that their female partner has experienced an unplanned pregnancy in the past

Reliance on condoms as a contraceptive method is highest amongst younger adults (18-34) at 41%

Across ages, reliance on ‘withdrawal’ as a method of contraception is highest amongst 18-34-year-olds and lowest for 55+ adults

Dr Caitriona Henchion, medical director of the IFPA, said that women of all reproductive ages in Ireland experienced pregnancies that were unplanned, unwanted or represent a crisis to them.

“If a pregnancy would be a crisis for a woman or couple, then it makes sense to use a contraceptive method they can rely on,”Henchion said.

But this recent research shows that almost 1 in 10 couples are using an unreliable method – withdrawal – rather than condoms or other reliable methods of contraception.

This is really concerning and shows that there is a need for more education and knowledge so that women are empowered to make the choice of contraceptive that’s best for them.

IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said that the perception that unintended pregnancy only happens to young women is “simply wrong”. He said an increasing number of women aged over 35 were attending pregnancy counselling services.

But there have never been more contraceptive options. These include hormonal methods, but also barrier methods, such as condoms and diaphragms.

IFPA doctors can discuss all these options with a woman and support her to decide on a method of contraception that suits her and that she and her partner can rely on to avoid unintended pregnancy.

The IFPA says that no extensive research has been conducted into unplanned pregnancy in Ireland since a major HSE study in 2012. It says its new survey, carried out in cooperation with Durex, presents a “snapshot of 2017 contraception and sexual health practices in Ireland”.

Founded in 1969, the Irish Family Planning Association is a registered charity and has clinics in Dublin and Tallaght. It also offers counselling services at eleven centres around the country.

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