One third of women unable to access correct contraception amid Covid

Exclusive: Lack of in-person clinic appointments has forced some to use the pill or even access abortion services

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Wednesday 13 October 2021 14:25 BST
The pandemic has profoundly disrupted sexual health clinics, with services forced to shut or run reduced clinics
The pandemic has profoundly disrupted sexual health clinics, with services forced to shut or run reduced clinics (AFP via Getty Images)

Almost one third of women seeking long-acting contraceptives such as coils or implant were unable to do so during the pandemic, troubling new research has found.

Covid-19 has profoundly disrupted sexual health clinics, with services forced to shut or run reduced clinics, while staff are transferred to work with Covid patients or forced to self-isolate.

It has left women struggling to obtain the most effective long-acting reversible contraceptive choices (LARC) of a coil or an implant due to these requiring face-to-face appointments which have largely been suspended as consultations are carried out remotely via phone or video call.

A remote sexual health testing service called Preventx, which polled 500 women who attempted to access long-acting contraceptive choices, discovered around three in ten were not able to obtain this form of contraception during the last year.

Of those women, seven per cent said their inability to get long-acting contraception led to them accessing abortion services, while 12 per cent said they were forced to take the morning-after pill.

Women’s bodies react differently to varying types of contraception, with some experiencing substantial side effects from the pill.

Guidance published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) stipulates increasing women’s usage of long-acting reversible contraception methods is instrumental in curbing the risk of unplanned pregnancies.

Ruth Poole, chief executive of Preventx, which works with the NHS, said: “Lack of access to both long-acting contraception and sexual health testing services have had a significant impact on people and will result in a negative impact on health inequalities.”

Sexual and reproductive health services were substantially underfunded and overstretched prior to the Covid crisis but an already fragile situation has been further compounded by pandemic disruption.

Earlier this year, The Independent reported thousands of women have had abortions after falling pregnant while having difficulties accessing contraception during the pandemic.

Katherine O’Brien, a spokesperson for the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the UK’s largest abortion provider, said: “No woman aspires to have an abortion and ideally no woman would have to access abortion services. It is much better for women if they are able to avoid an unplanned pregnancy and an abortion. For some women, an abortion will be a difficult experience.”

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