Financial barriers remain to effective contraception in Ireland, study says

ireland
Financial Barriers Remain To Effective Contraception In Ireland, Study Says
The UCC study found that male students were likely to spend less per year on contraception than female students. Photo: PA Images.
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Gordon Deegan

The Government’s delay in providing free contraception means financial barriers still exist in Ireland today that limit access to effective contraception, according to a new study.

The study in this month’s Irish Medical Journal (IMJ) found that “students often use unreliable and user-dependent contraceptive methods to protect themselves against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and pregnancy”.

In a paper entitled "Influence of Cost on Contraceptive Choices Amongst University Students", three authors from University College Cork (UCC)'s department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology concluded that “with prevention of unplanned pregnancies remaining a public health concern in Ireland, removing the costs associated with contraceptives may help to increase their uptake amongst students”.

The report found that over a third of all females surveyed said they would definitely change contraception method if cost was removed.

Male vs female spending

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A total of 1,840 sexually active students at UCC completed the online survey. The survey found that condoms were used by 1,020 students at 55.4 per cent, with the combined pill used by 729 or 39.4 per cent and "coitus interruptus" was used by 169 students or nine per cent.

The authors said that statistically, males were more likely to spend under €50 annually and female students were more likely to spend over €100 on contraception.

The detailed findings of the survey show that by removing cost, 394 or 34.3 per cent of sexually active women would definitely change contraception, with another 250 women or 21.8 per cent considering changing.

The authors state that in Ireland, currently one in seven pregnancies is perceived as a crisis pregnancy. They add that non-use of contraception remains the leading reason for requiring emergency contraception amongst students.

Inconsistent use

The authors said that despite several information campaigns, students' use of contraception can be unreliable and inconsistent.

The paper’s authors, Roisin McConnell along with S Meaney and K O’Donoghue, said that the study is one of the largest of Irish university students in recent times.

Females accounted for the large majority to respond to the survey, at 73.7 per cent.

The authors said that former health minister, Simon Harris, promised free contraception but this did not materialise in Budget 2021.

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