Increased Numbers Attend Pregnancy Counselling Services
– Irish Family Planning Association Publishes 2011 Annual Report –
Improved awareness of counselling services has led to a marked increase in the numbers attending pregnancy counselling services. That’s according to the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA), which launched its 2011 Annual Report today (17.09.12).
Last year saw 1,421 women, girls and couples receive one-to-one crisis pregnancy counselling from IFPA-based services, a 20 per cent increase on the previous year. The IFPA’s pregnancy counselling department delivers a professional and ethically-driven service in 11 centres nationwide, as well as a national pregnancy helpline – 1850 49 50 51.
The IFPA has also found that the number of women presenting for post-abortion care in 2011 increased by 85 per cent on the previous year.
Of all the IFPA’s pregnancy counselling services, post-termination counselling accounted for 42 per cent of the service’s client base last year. A total of 4,484 clients availed of the organisation’s pregnancy counselling network last year. More than 3,000 callers to the IFPA pregnancy helpline received advice and appointments.
Chief Executive of the IFPA, Niall Behan, said: “The improved awareness of the availability of the IFPA’s post-abortion counselling services, the breakdown of stigma associated with the procedure, and women’s increasing willingness to discuss abortion are all factors that have led to more demand for our crisis pregnancy facilities.
“The fact that almost half (42 per cent) of the clients of our face-to-face counselling attended their sessions with a support person – be they a partner, friend, family member or healthcare professional – highlights a greater openness about crisis pregnancy in Ireland. On the whole, women seem to be more willing to speak about such situations, and more inclined to avail of the support services available to them.”
However, the IFPA continues to struggle to meet the demands of much of the public in the face of continuing cuts to its funding. “In 2011, demand for contraceptive services among medical card clients continued to grow, however Government funding for these services was reduced for the fifth consecutive year,” Mr Behan added.
“The 4.35 per cent cut in funding in 2011 forced the IFPA to ration the delivery of family planning services to medical card holders. Clients experienced delays of up to six weeks for contraceptive consultations and clients seeking long-term contraceptive devices (such as the coil and Implanon) faced delays of anything between one to three months for initiation of contraceptive devices”.
The report also highlighted the financial and medical benefits of long term contraception, which overall prove to be less expensive than less reliable oral contraceptives. IFPA clinics regularly saw women who are using short-term contraception, such as the oral contraceptive pill, as they are unable to afford the initial outlay of more effective long term contraception, such as the implant or coil, which can cost up to €300.
An IFPA’s audit of long acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods – undertaken over a 15-month period from January 2011 to March 2012, and contained in the report – found a significant difference in the costs of these methods, compared to oral contraceptives such as ‘the pill’. It has estimated that, over a year, a woman may spend between €150 and €260 on the pill, compared to an annual cost of €94 for an implant, €65 for the LNG IUS (Levonorgestral Intrauterine System) and €25 for the copper IUCD coil.
“The IFPA’s audit of LARC methods suggests that they are highly effective, less expensive in the long-term, and convenient for women. With failure rates of one per 1,000 or less, and given they are not subject to user error, they have been proven to be a more reliable form of contraception than oral methods, which have failure rates varying from 1 per cent for perfect use to 8 per cent for usual use. The IFPA would actively promote their use over ‘the pill’,” added Mr. Behan.
Since the introduction of the National Cervical Screening Programme, ‘CervicalCheck’, in 2008, the IFPA has been at the core of its delivery. In 2011, 4,206 women were screened for cervical cancer at IFPA clinics – a 15 per cent decrease on the previous year.
Last year 1,736 screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were carried out at IFPA clinics, However, the IFPA believes that a lack of access to STI screenings is still a major cause of concern, particularly for young people and those on low incomes.
“While we have had much public debate about the incidence of STIs in Ireland, there remains a failure to develop adequate and accessible screening services,” Mr Behan explained. “STI screening is not covered under the medical card scheme and screening services for young people, the group with the highest incidences of STIs, are insufficient and inequitable.”
Contact: Catherine Heaney / Michael McHale, DHR Communications, Tel: 01-4200580 / 087-2309835 / 087-4135641
Note to Editors:
The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is Ireland’s leading sexual health charity. The organisation promotes the right of all people to sexual and reproductive health information and dedicated confidential and affordable healthcare services.
The IFPA currently provides pregnancy counselling and advice to clients through our pregnancy counselling network of 11 centres and our national helpline – 1850 49 50 51. These services are offered to women, girls and couples for free and provided by accredited psychotherapists and counsellors. For more information please see www.ifpa.ie.