Early sex linked to crisis pregnancy

Women who lose their virginity as young teenagers are 70% more likely to face a crisis pregnancy in adulthood, it emerged today.

The Irish Study of Sexual Health and Relationships (ISSHR) also found they were three times more likely to have an abortion.

The Crisis Pregnancy Agency survey revealed first sex among adolescents was linked to high levels of regret and low use of contraception.

Almost a third of men and a fifth of women lost their virginity before 17.

“According to research, the majority of young people wait until they are 17 or older to have sex for the first time,” Crisis Pregnancy Agency chair Katharine Bulbulia said.

“However, for those who have had sex before 17, the research shows the impact of early first sex on the individual’s later sexual health and suggests that some young people are saying they are having first sex at a time in their lives that is not right for them.

“We need to equip young people with the knowledge and skills they need to delay their first sexual experience.

“The Crisis Pregnancy Agency is, in consultation with a range of other organisations and young people, currently planning a campaign to encourage adolescents to delay first sex, which we hope to launch later in the year,” she said.

The research on first sexual experiences, the largest of its kind in Ireland, revealed those who lost their virginity before 17 were around half as likely to use contraception as those who waited.

And 59% of women who had sex before they were 16 regretted it.

The study also found women who had sex before 17 are almost 70% more likely to experience a crisis pregnancy in later life and three times more likely to experience abortion than those who waited until they were older.

The survey, of more than 7,400 men and women, found early school leavers were more likely to lose their virginity as young teenagers than those who stay in education.

Men with secondary-level qualifications are three times more likely than those with a third-level qualification to report experience of first sex before age 17.

But the study also found there were no differences in the use of alcohol or drugs between those who had sex before 17 and those who waited.

In both categories, for people under 30, 38% of men and around 20% of women said they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they lost their virginity.

Health Minister Mary Harney welcomed the study.

“I know that the main report has been of practical assistance to the Crisis Pregnancy Agency, and I expect that people working in sexual health will find the sub-reports very insightful and useful to them in their daily work,” she said.

Most Read in Ireland