17th April 2018
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) has warned that the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) proposal for over-the-counter contraceptives risks side-lining the most effective methods and could limit women’s choices about their contraceptive options.
Dr Caitriona Henchion, Medical Director of the IFPA, said: "The Government’s priority must be improving access to the most effective methods of contraception: long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs).”
These include the injection, which lasts up to three months; the implant, which lasts up to three years; and hormonal and non-hormonal intra-uterine devices (coils), which last up to ten years.
"As well as being the most effective form of contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy, LARCs are also more cost-effective in the long-term than other methods." said Dr Henchion.
But LARC uptake in Ireland is relatively low, partly due to the significant initial cost to women.
“A low level of awareness among women and healthcare providers about the suitability of LARCs is another a major factor in the low uptake," said Dr Henchion. "For example, there is often a misconception that LARCs are not suitable for women who haven't had children.”
IFPA Chief Executive Niall Behan said: "We carried out an in-depth analysis of IFPA client preferences in 2015 and found that 39% of clients chose LARCs as their method of contraception—just over double the national estimated rate. This highlights the important role specialised family planning clinics have in supporting women to consider this form of contraception."
"The IFPA campaigned for the availability of emergency contraception over the counter in pharmacies because it was the best way to improve access for women who need it," Mr Behan continued. "But to really have an impact on unintended pregnancy, women need comprehensive information and a choice of all methods including LARCs, which can only be provided by doctors.”
The most recent Irish Contraception and Crisis Pregnancy Study, conducted in 2010 and published in 2012, found that while 43% of women used the oral contraceptive pill and 62% of respondents used condoms as contraception, 19% of women used LARCs. In 2015, 39% of the IFPA's contraceptive services were for LARCs. Some clients were referred by GPs unable to provide the specific contraceptive service, while other clients self-referred.