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39% of female students have had unprotected sex - and over two thirds didn't use emergency contraception afterwards

15th September 2014
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Students need better education about their contraceptive choices and more straight-forward information, according to the Family Planning Association (FPA.)

To coincide with the charity’s Sexual Health Week (15th – 19th September), the FPA has released some worrying statistics – including that more than a third of female students in the UK have had unprotected sex in the last two years.

Of these, 67% (more than two thirds) admitted that they didn’t use emergency contraception afterwards.

Of those that did, 48% said that buying emergency contraception was embarrassing and that they still felt that there was a stigma surrounding it.

43% didn’t know where they could go to get emergency contraception, and 47% believed it would work “like an abortion.”

In fact emergency contraception prevents a pregnancy, whilst abortion ends an existing one.

Only 18% of students questioned thought health professionals provide enough information on the different methods of emergency contraception that are available, and 54% admitted that they only know ‘a little’ about methods of emergency contraception.

There are three methods of emergency contraception that are available in the UK: two pills, ellaOne and Levonelle, and the emergency IUD (sometimes called the coil) which can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex, doesn’t affect your fertility, can be removed at any time and can be left to act as a regular method of contraception for up to five years.

The survey asked about the contraceptive choices of more than 2,000 sexually active women aged 16-54 in the UK.

Now, the FPA is calling for better education to help young women avoid unplanned pregnancies.

FPA’s Director of Health and Wellbeing, Natika Halil, says: “With sex and relationships education in schools and colleges so patchy, it is not surprising to see that students aged 16 and over have such glaring gaps in their knowledge and aren’t sure what to believe of the mixed messages and misconceptions they hear.

She adds: “A majority (72%) also didn’t know that repeated use of emergency contraception won’t make you infertile.”

To mark Sexual Health Week, the FPA has sent 4,000 campaign packs to clinicians, doctors and pharmacists around the UK, packed with tips to help them make conversations about contraception less embarrassing, and to ensure women know their options.

The charity also wants to raise awareness of the full range of contraceptive choices that there are in the UK – 15 in total, with 13 for women and two for men.

Among all 16-24-year-old women surveyed, the male condom (80%) and combined pill (71%) were predictably the methods that most said they had a good understanding of.

Least well understood were the vaginal ring and IUS (8%), and patch (19%).

Ms Halil added: “It’s also really important for students to think about whether there is a regular method of contraception that might be more suitable for them going forward.

“For example if you know you sometimes forget to take your pill, there are long-acting methods you can use which remove the need to remember to do something every day.”

For more information on contraceptive choices visit the FPA here.




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