Unsafe sex the night before leads to morning after pill

January 01, 2011

Thousands of women risk waking up on New Years Day with more than a hangover as over one in five blame partying with drink or drugs for not using contraception with a new partner, figures* reveal today (1 January 2011).

The study by The Co-operative Pharmacy found that women resort to the morning after pill to avoid unwanted pregnancies but still face catching sexually transmitted diseases.

The Co-operative Pharmacy, part of The Co-operative Group, questioned 3,000 people about contraception and found that one in five women aged 18 to 35 years old have used the morning after pill in the last 12 months. One in six women admitted to having had a sexual disease.

The research also revealed that the preferred method of contraception for almost half of all women was the pill and two out of five favoured condoms. 250,000** women have used the emergency contraceptive three times or more and more than one in 50 of those aged 18 to 21 said they preferred to use the morning after pill as a regular form of contraception.

More than one in 50 women have used the morning after pill three times or more in the last 12 months while one in 56 women aged 18 to 21 years old admitted using the morning after pill more than five times.

Worryingly 1 in 67 men said they would prefer a woman to use the morning after pill so that they don’t have to wear a condom. 

The Co-operative Pharmacy poll also asked women about sexual diseases. The most common was chlamydia followed by genital herpes and gonorrhoea. According to the Health Protection Agency*** each year there are almost 500,000 new sexually transmitted infection diagnoses in the UK.

Freedom of Information research by The Co-operative Pharmacy shows that between 2009/10 the NHS bill for contraception topped £43 million**** with £2 million spent on emergency contraception. In the same year, Primary Care Trusts prescribed 249,221 emergency contraception items and 41, 371 coils, which can also be used as emergency contraception. The morning after pill is available with or without a doctor’s prescription. 

Mandeep Mudhar, Head of NHS Development at The Co-operative Pharmacy, said: “Our research shows that some women are taking unnecessary risks with their health. The morning after pill should be a last resort to prevent an unwanted pregnancy after having unprotected sex or if another method of contraception has failed, such as if you have forgotten to take one of your contraceptive pills. 

“However, the emergency contraceptive pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Pharmacists provide free accessible advice about contraception but we would always urge people to use a condom, particularly with a new partner, as it offers the greatest protection.”

Top five cities and towns with women most likely to use the morning after pill:

  1. Edinburgh (43%)
  2. Aberdeen (40%)
  3. Swansea (35%)
  4. Aberystwyth (33%)
  5. Portsmouth (23%) 

Top five cities and towns with women least likely to use the morning after pill:

  1. Coventry (96%)
  2. Bristol (95%)
  3. Gloucester (93%)
  4. Southampton (92%)
  5. Belfast (91%)


 Notes to editors:

*One Poll interviewed a random sample of 3,000 adults online in November 2010.  Surveys were conducted among adults across all ages and regions of the country.

**Calculations based on ONS population projection statistics for women aged 16 to 44 – 12,173,000. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_population/KPVS34-2007/KPVS2007.pdf

***The latest figures from the Health Protection agency show there were 9,039 cases of selected STI diagnoses in 2009 compared to 6,285 in 2005  http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1247816547927

****Freedom of Information request made to NHS Prescription Service with details provided for costs of contraception for 152 PCTs in England. Between April 2009 and March 2010 combined hormonal contraceptives costs were £43,198,430 for all PCTs. Between April 2009 and March 2010 emergency contraception (hormonal methods) and intra-uterine devices costs were £2,041, 875 for all PCTs.