Monday, April 10, 2017
The growing popularity of long-acting contraception is likely the reason that fewer women need the emergency contraceptive pill.
Family Planning figures show the number of appointments for the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) have declined month-on-month since 2013.
Our National Medical Advisor, Dr Christine Roke, says a major reason for this decline is that more women are opting for long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs), such as the contraceptive implant and the IUD.
Long-acting reversible contraception
LARCs are an increasingly popular contraception option because they are highly effective.
LARCs are more than 99% effective and are a “fit and forget” type of contraception. This means there’s less chance of forgetting to use contraception (like taking a pill on time), or having contraception fail (like condoms breaking) – and being in a position where you might need emergency contraception.
Another factor to consider is the Jadelle contraceptive implant becoming subsidised in 2010. The removal of the $300 cost opened up the option of a long-acting implant to many women, especially those on a low income.
This means in January we booked in 23% fewer appointments for the ECP than in January 2013.
However, Dr Roke says there are still plenty of women using the ECP each month.
“It’s really important to have ECP available for women, because it’s a great back-up option.”
Another option for emergency contraception is to have the copper IUD inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex.
The copper IUD is more than 99% effective, and will last for 5 to 10 years.
This is a particularly good option for women who weigh more than 70kg, as the ECP can be less effective.
More health professionals
There are other factors that could also be attributed to fewer women seeking the ECP.
One factor is the increasing numbers of external health professionals able to provide the ECP.
Aside from pharmacists who sell the ECP, more nurses around the country are able to provide ECPs.
Family Planning is also continuing to train nurses working in schools, medical centres and other community settings to provide other methods of contraception.
Some things never change…
While ECP numbers may be down, one thing that hasn’t changed is the most popular day for getting the ECP. Not surprisingly, Mondays and Tuesdays have always been our busiest for ECP appointments.
“I’ve been working at Family Planning for many years and the reasons haven’t really changed either. People have busy weekends, they go to parties, and often end up having sex when they weren’t expecting to or are influenced by alcohol or drugs, and so they make appointments first thing on Monday morning!”
Dr Roke has one last piece of advice. “Choosing a LARC as your regular method of contraception is a really good option – it protects you from unintended pregnancies for a long time and you don’t need to remember to do anything. But don’t forget that to stop yourself from getting an STI, you should use a condom.”
Did you know?
- You may be able to have a phone appointment with a nurse Monday to Saturday (and some Sundays) and then pick up the ECP from the pharmacy. It’s usually cheaper than buying an ECP from the pharmacist.
- LARCs are an affordable option. If you are under 22, you can get an IUD or Jadelle implant completely free. If you are 22 or older, you will just need to pay for your appointment.
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.