Almost a third of women looking for long-acting contraceptives like IUDs or implants were unable to do so during the pandemic, new research has shown.
Covid-19 has profoundly disrupted sexual health clinics, forcing services to close or operate clinics while staff are moved to work with Covid patients or forced to self-isolate.
It has led women to find the most effective long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) of an IUD or implant as these require in-person appointments that have largely been suspended as consultations are carried out remotely over the phone or video call.
A remote sexual health testing service called Preventx, which surveyed 500 women who tried to use long-acting contraception, found that about three in ten had not been able to get this form of birth control last year.
Of these women, seven percent said their inability to use long-acting contraceptives led them to seek abortion services, while 12 percent said they were forced to take the morning-after pill.
Women’s bodies react differently to different types of birth control, with some having significant side effects from the pill.
The guidelines published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that the increased use of long-acting reversible birth control methods in women is critical to reducing the risk of unplanned pregnancies.
Ruth Poole, executive director of Preventx, who works with the NHS, said, “The lack of access to both long-acting contraception and sexual health tests has a significant impact on people and will negatively impact health inequalities.”
Sexual and reproductive health services were significantly underfunded and overburdened prior to the Covid crisis, but an already fragile situation was exacerbated by the disruption of the pandemic.
Earlier this year The independent one reported that thousands of women had abortions after becoming pregnant while struggling to access contraception during the pandemic.
Katherine O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the UK Pregnancy Counseling Service, the UK’s largest abortion provider, said: “No woman aspires to have an abortion, and ideally no woman should have access to abortion services. It is much better for women if they can avoid an unplanned pregnancy and termination of pregnancy. For some women, an abortion will be a difficult experience. “