90% of young people use contraception for first-time sex

Nine out of 10 young people used contraception the first time they had sex, research has revealed.

And those who received “helpful” sex education were almost twice as likely to use contraception the first time.

The findings in the ‘Irish Contraception and Crisis Pregnancy Study 2010’ were based on responses from 3,002 men and women. The findings, published by the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme yesterday, were compared to a study conducted in 2003.

The average age of first-time sex has remained largely unchanged over the past seven years — aged 17 for men and increasing slightly for women to 18.

It found consistent use of contraception among young people was high and increasing, with 80% of 18-25-year-olds using contraception every time they have sex. There has also been an increase from 4% to 12% in young people using more reliable methods of contraception such as the implant, injection, the contraceptive ring, and the contraceptive patch.

The study’s co-author, Prof Hannah McGee of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, said the findings were backed up by the significant decrease in teenage births over the last 10 years and the number of women under the age of 20 travelling to Britain for an abortion.

Director of the HSE Crisis Pregnancy Programme, Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe was, however, concerned about the fall in the number of parents speaking to their children about relationships and sex, from 82% to 70%.

“We know that sex education provided by parents and schools is much more helpful to young people than sex education provided by their peers or other sources,” she said.

The study found that one in three women, pregnant in Ireland in 2010, experienced a crisis pregnancy. Many women in the survey viewed their pregnancy as a crisis because they were too young. This was despite most of the pregnancies occurring to women in their mid-20s.

In the 2003 survey, 52% of young women who had been pregnant said their pregnancy was a crisis pregnancy. In the 2010 survey it had risen to 66%.

Dr O’Keeffe said the average age of first-time mothers had increased in recent years and the view taken by younger women might reflect cultural changes regarding the most desirable age to have a baby. She said the proportion of women reporting that the pregnancy was a crisis for financial reasons had increased from 2% in 2003 to 9% in 2010.

The study also found an increase in the number of people who have been screened and/or diagnosed with HIV or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

More than a third of adults said they had been tested for HIV, with less than 1% diagnosed with the virus.

One in five men and almost a third of women had been screened for an STI other than HIV, and one in seven of those tested received a positive diagnosis.


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