Older women and teenage girls--who experience unwanted pregnancies--fail at equal rates to use contraception
(22 January 2007: VIDYYA MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE) -- The perception that teenage girls with unwanted pregnancies have been less careful about contraception than older women has been dismissed by a study.
Doctors at a Glasgow hospital analysed the birth control attempted by nearly 1,000 women requesting abortions.
They found the proportion of older women who had used no contraception at all was roughly similar to the percentage of teenagers.
The findings appear in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
The UK has some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe, and the government has placed a high priority on bringing the figure down using extensive information campaigns on contraception and safe sex.
However, the new evidence suggests that the difference in attitudes to contraception in older women may not be as different as assumed.
The research at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow looked at approximately 950 women who had asked for an abortion, comprising 246 teenagers and just under 700 women aged 20 or older.
Some had experienced a contraceptive failure, such as a burst condom, or had fallen pregnant despite taking oral contraceptives.
However, a large proportion had become pregnant following sex without any attempt at contraception.
In all, 57% of the teenagers had not used contraception, and 51% of the older women - and this small difference was not statistically significant.
Roughly the same proportion in both groups had used condoms, or were taking the Pill.
Dr Marco Gaudoin, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist from Southern General Hospital and an author of the paper said: "The findings demonstrate that not only do we have a long way to go in persuading teenagers to use reliable contraception but contraceptive education should also be continued in all women, regardless of their age."
Professor Phil Steer, the editor-in-chief of the journal, said: "Teenagers have been unfairly criticized for irresponsible behavior when it comes to sex and contraception."
Toni Belfield, from the sexual health charity FPA, said she "wasn't surprised" to see evidence of similar behaviour in women of different ages.
"These are all human beings, who can get carried away in the passion of the moment and not use contraception. It debunks the myth that teenagers are less responsible when it comes to contraception."
She called for more investment in community contraception services to prevent the number of unwanted pregnancies increasing in all age groups.
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