There has been a significant drop in the number of prescriptions dispensed for oral contraception since the start of the Covid-19 crisis.
There has been a 10% decrease in prescriptions for the contraceptive pill compared to the same time time last year, according to the Irish Pharmacy Union.
As well as the contraceptive pill, there has been a marked drop-off in the 'morning after' pill, information gathered by almost three-quarters of Irish pharmacies reveals.
Cork community pharmacist and IPU executive member, Caitriona O’Riordan, said some women might be wary about visiting a pharmacy or might have finished their six-month prescription, unaware that pharmacists could extend it.
“We want to reassure everyone that pharmacies are open and operating as normal; they have also put in place stringent physical distancing measures to ensure there is no risk to patients," said Ms O’Riordan.
Public health measures allow pharmacists to increase the maximum validity of a prescription from six to nine months and that applies to oral contraception.
Women can get emergency hormonal contraception from a pharmacy without a prescription but because of Covid-19 they are encouraged to have a telephone consultation with the pharmacy before collecting the medicine.
Interim lead of the HSE’s sexual health and crisis pregnancy programme, Maeve O'Brien, said lower numbers of women accessing their usual contraception methods might increase the risk of unplanned pregnancies.
We would also advise women who have been sexually active without using contraception, and not planning a pregnancy, to contact their pharmacist to arrange an emergency hormonal contraception consultation.
Ms Caitriona O'Riordan said pharmacists have called for the pill to be made available in pharmacies without prescription: “The drop in use that we are seeing at the moment further emphasises the importance of improving access to contraception. This is about giving choice to women, and pharmacists are happy to offer that choice currently; we hope it can be enhanced in future.”
Information on contraception is available at sexualwellbeing.ie.