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How clued up are you about contraception?

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Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD) has joined forces with the Family Planning Association (FPA) in a campaign to promote and widen women's access to contraception. Their extensive survey of 3,000 women (including 495 students in full-time education) examines contemporary views towards birth control.

As startling statistics are churned out by newspapers with alarming regularity, exposing an uphill trend of rising STI rates amongst young adults and an unprecedented explosion of unplanned pregnancies, how are we to judge how aware our generation really is about the myriad of contraceptive choices on offer?

The enthusiastically titled Love, Life and LARCs campaign hopes to get women talking and raise awareness of alternatives to halt the steep incline of unplanned pregnancies that has been estimated to flitter around the 50% mark. The campaign follows in the wake of worrying results from MSD’s extensive survey that revealed that 70% of women who had recently used contraception felt that they were not provided with enough information about their options.

These findings cohere with other studies that point to an overwhelming tendency to stick to the tried and tested methods of condoms, the pill or using both in conjunction. According to a survey from 2009, 25%  used condoms, 25% was on the pill and a mere one per cent used the implant. Worryingly, more people confessed to relying on the withdrawal method than the contraceptive injection. 

As argued by Dr Tina Peers, Consultant in Contraception and Sexual Health, “there is more choice than ever for women of all ages but research shows that there is a lot of confusion about contraception.”

In keeping with this trend, MSD’s survey also demonstrated that a sizeable 41% of respondents worried about taking their contraception correctly and forgetting to use or take it and that a considerable 19% were unhappy with their current form of contraception.

Regardless of these concerns however, much fewer women are using long-acting reversible contraception (or LARCs) such as the injection or the implant. Indeed, of full-time students surveyed 60% did not even recognise the term despite LARCs being proven to be the most effective form of contraception as they are less subject to inconsistent use on the part of the user.

One explanation for the avoidance of alternatives lies in the lack of time dedicated to contraceptive decisions; 30% of women surveyed had not spoken with a health professional about birth control in the past year.

In response to a diminished discussion about contraception, the Love, Life and LARCs campaign aims to generate greater conversation between women and healthcare professionals about their options and most importantly, revive dwindling interest in a long neglected topic.

Natika H. Halil, Director of Communications, Health and Wellbeing at the Family Planning Association, reacted enthusiastically to the campaign: “We are delighted to support the Love, Life & LARCs campaign in the hope we can encourage positive conversations between women and their healthcare professionals.”

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