Many people 'not using contraception with new partner'

More than half of Irish people did not use contraception when having sex with a new partner for the first time, it was revealed today.

Almost a fifth did not use any protection when losing their virginity, according to figures released at the Dublin launch of the second World Contraception Day.

With over 220,000 unplanned pregnancies worldwide everyday it aims to remind young people and couples of the vital need to be aware of the contraceptive options available.

Dr Shirley McQuade, medical director with the Dublin Well Woman Centre, said young people do not know the impacts of unplanned pregnancies.

"We are regularly seeing cases of young men and women who have either been misinformed or uneducated on the contraception options available to them," she said.

"While women may be more inclined to discuss the topic with their sexual partner, it is evident that for many, no method is used at all.

"If you're sexually active, modern contraception is the most effective method of preventing unintended pregnancy.

"However, the harsh reality is, not only is there substantial emotional and physical impact on the new parents, but a severe financial one and one which many cannot provide for."

Ms McQuade said it was vital that young people be given the education to make informed decisions about their sexual practices.

In an EU-wide survey carried out last year, Ireland ranked third after Malta and Iceland for the oldest age when teenagers first had sex, with the average age being 18.

When it comes to discussing contraception, women are far more inclined to bring up the topic than men at 45% compared to 22%, according to the study.

Around 17% of Irish people used no protection when losing their virginity and 56% had sex with a new partner for the first time without contraception.

The EU survey shows around 58% of Irish people look to their friends for sex education and advice, compared with only 3% who go to their GP.

When questioned about reasons not to have sex, 29% of men were afraid of sex for the first time for fear their partner would become pregnant, while 23% of women gave the same reason.

Recent statistics also reveal rising numbers of people are being screened for sexually transmitted infections, with cases of chlamydia up 11% over a year.

The Well Woman Centre's annual report, released in July, revealed the number of people attending its centres for full STI screening increased five-fold since 2002.

Specifically targeting 18 to 25 year-olds, the second World Contraception Day, which takes place tomorrow, is the only global campaign to raise awareness of contraception among men and women, and to improve the level of education regarding reproductive and sexual health.

Niall Behan, Irish Family Planning Association's (IFPA) Chief Executive, said: "Education and awareness raising about contraceptive use reduces the risks associated with unprotected sexual intercourse.

"The use of condoms is important in protecting against sexually transmitted infections (STI's) and the guide published on World Contraception Day illustrates the different forms of contraception available.

"It is therefore recommended that both condoms and an alternative method be used for optimal protection against infection or pregnancy."

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