FSRH statement: we respond to new study showing unplanned pregnancies have almost doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic
Date: 22 Oct 2021
Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements
A new study led by researchers at University College London (UCL) shows that access to contraception in the UK has become more difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the proportion of unplanned pregnancies has almost doubled. The study confirms what our members have been consistently reporting: women and girls are finding it harder to access contraception.
The study, published this week on the BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health (BMJ SRH), found that access to contraception has become harder since the first national UK COVID-19 pandemic lockdown of March 2020 and has continued to worsen over the time studied. The authors note it is likely the study has not captured those women who were not planning to continue with their pregnancy. Therefore, the percentage of unplanned pregnancies reported in the study is underestimated.
The researchers conclude that better planning and resources are required to ensure that access to essential services is not disrupted in any future pandemics.
Dr Asha Kasliwal, President of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, (FSRH), said:
“This new study confirms what our members have been consistently reporting: women and girls are finding it even harder to access contraception since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The research follows the recent publication of official statistics by the NHS, which showed a steep fall in the number of women and girls accessing community services for contraception in 2020. It also follows a report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Access to Contraception by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on SRH evidencing the impact of COVID-19, with many women being bounced from service to service.
“Whilst it was right and necessary to limit face-to-face appointments during the peak of the pandemic to protect both patients and the NHS workforce, the evidence is clear: it is time to act to ensure that women and girls have access to essential healthcare that enables them to take control of their fertility and their lives.
“Services, including GP practices, were already substantially under-resourced to provide comprehensive contraceptive care prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the pandemic has only made waiting lists grow longer and longer. The redeployment of staff from understaffed Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare clinics has resulted in service closures, and clinicians are concerned that some patients are no longer able to access the care they need.
“We urge the Department of Health and Social Care to support the restoration of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare services in the community and primary care. We strongly call on the Department to work with us to tackle immediate and long-standing barriers to equitable contraceptive provision in the upcoming national Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy.
“COVID-19 will continue to put unprecedented pressure on public service budgets. We urge the Government to provide the sustainable long-term investment that contraceptive services urgently need, including the workforce.”
For further information, please contact: Camila Azevedo, External Affairs Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org / 07379408587
Notes to Editors
- The study can be found here
- The NHS data on Sexual and Reproductive Health Services, mentioned in the quote above, can be accessed here
- The report of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Access to Contraception by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on SRH can be accessed here
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ.