Page last updated at 22:58 GMT, Sunday, 5 October 2008 23:58 UK

Survey shows contraception myths

Contraceptive pill
There are concerns younger girls could get access

Women do not end up with the best form of contraception for them because of false beliefs and fears, a snapshot survey of Scottish women suggests.

The poll of 55 women, published in a family planning journal, found anxiety about weight-gain deterred many from long-acting hormonal contraception.

The coil and implants were rejected because women did not want examinations or invasive procedures.

Many chose the Pill just because their peers had done so, the survey found.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot by saying they are long-acting, and we need to emphasise that they don't impair fertility, and the majority of them don't affect weight
Professor Anna Glasier
Sexual Health NHS Lothian

Both the Department of Health and the Scottish authorities are actively promoting long-acting contraceptives, because they are reliable and have few side-effects.

Guidelines say that all women should be offered them when they visit a GP asking about contraception.

However, research suggests they are not popular, with only one in 10 women reporting having used them in the past year, less than a quarter of the number using either oral contraceptives or condoms.

Weight fear

The study of 55 women, published in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, was carried out by sexual health specialists in southern Scotland to try to find out why women felt this way.

They found two of the biggest things that put women off particular types of contraception were unfounded fears that they would harm their long-term fertility, and, in the shorter term, that they would make them put on weight.

One younger woman said: "With a long-term method, you'd worry what it was doing to your insides."

Others said that intrauterine devices such as a coil were out of the question because of the need to have it inserted by a doctor.

"I hate the idea of a stranger poking around down there," said one.

The thought of an implant sitting under the skin was off-putting for some of the women.

Peer choice

Others told the survey that they had gone to the GP and asked for "the Pill" simply because their friends were using it, rather than going to ask about the right contraception for them.

One of the women told the researchers: "Everyone was on the Pill, so that's what I asked for - she just gave it to me."

Specialists said that while women's fears of medical examinations or implants might not be easily overcome, the survey suggested that the term "long-acting" used when promoting some forms of contraception could be creating false fears.

Professor Anna Glasier, from Sexual Health NHS Lothian, said: "We are shooting ourselves in the foot by saying they are long-acting, and we need to emphasise that they don't impair fertility, and the majority of them don't affect weight.

"Doctors tend to focus on medical problems, whereas women are actually more worried about their weight, their skin and their chances of being able to have children in the future."

Lynn Hearton, of Fpa (the Family Planning Association), said: "Women do worry about things like their fertility and gaining weight.

"They are concerned about how contraception fits into the whole of their lives, and not just its effectiveness.

"Contraception is of paramount importance to many women of all ages, but there are many myths and misconceptions circulating about how methods work and what the side effects are.

"So it's imperative that each and every woman has the information, time and support to consider all these issues and make her own informed choice."

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