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Lockdown leads to double unplanned pregnancies

Friday October 22nd 2021

Unplanned pregnancies almost doubled during the first lockdown in the UK, a major study reports today.

The research, led by UCL and University College London Hospital, found accessing contraception during the first lockdown nine times more difficult, which led to the proportion of unplanned pregnancies increasing from 1.3% pre-lockdown to 2.1% post-lockdown

The study, published today in BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health, is the first to assess changes in women’s self-reported access to contraception in the UK due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The team analysed data from 9,784 women involved in the Contraception and Pregnancy Study (CAP-COVID) based at UCL and UCLH.

Out of the entire cohort, 4,114 conceived pre-lockdown and 5,670 conceived post-lockdown.

Senior author Dr Jennifer Hall, of UCL Institute for Women’s Health, said: “During the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries, including the UK, recognised the need for continuing contraception provision and implemented new practices and policies to deliver this.

“The UK saw a significant shift to telemedicine along with remote prescription for progestogen-only pill and combined oral contraceptive pill for up to a year compared to the usual three to six months, and many maternity services also worked to improve the postnatal contraception provision available in hospital.

“However, we found that despite the introduction of new policies and practices by contraception and abortion service providers during the first lockdown, women continued to report ongoing difficulties in accessing contraception leading to a significant rise in the proportion of unplanned pregnancies.”

First author Dr Neerujah Balachandren, of UCLH’s Reproductive Medicine Unit, added: “Prior research has pointed to several factors which may explain why it was harder to access contraception during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“These include a lack of clarity about the legitimacy of trying to access Sexual and Reproductive Health services (SRH) during a pandemic, uncertainty about which SRH services are still available, limited GP appointments, challenges to contraceptive prescribing and closure of usual points of access to free condoms within community settings.”

Balachandren N, Barrett G, Stephenson GJ et al. The impact of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic on access to contraception and pregnancy intentions: a national prospective cohort study of the UK population. BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health 22 October 2021; doi: 10.1136/bmjsrh-2021-201164

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | NHS | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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