Too many adolescents using 'high failure rate' contraceptives

Too many adolescents in New Zealand are using contraceptive methods with high failure rates, new research shows. 

Of the 40 percent of Kiwi teenagers aged 16 to 19 who say they've had sex, the research shows many of them rely on contraceptive methods that aren't effective, like condoms and the other oral means. 

"Some New Zealand adolescents are sexually active and of those adolescents who are having sex, some are using contraceptive methods with typically high-use failure rates," Rebecca Duncan, a PhD student and the study's lead author, said. 

The University of Otago research, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, suggests that a proactive programme is required to increase the low use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as intrauterine devices and implants. 

Thirty-two teenage girls were assessed by the researchers who found they knew little about LARCs, which have been recommended by the World Health Organisation as "first-line contraceptives for all women". 

"Of adolescents using contraception, many rely on condoms with a 13 percent typical use failure rate, or oral contraceptive pills with an 8 per cent failure rate," Ms Duncan said. 

According to the research, 90 percent of adolescent pregnancies are unintended, and this comes down a lack of information, time, money for appointments, and transport limitations for young people who want contraception. 

"We suggested a provision model where adolescents would be offered LARCs proactively and consulted with four focus groups of female adolescents to assess whether they found this model to be acceptable," the study says. 

The researchers concluded that the young people they spoke to felt positively about this concept, and described a range of barriers that currently prevent them from accessing effective contraception. 

Dr Helen Paterson, a supervisor of the study, said GPs and schools should regularly offer LARCs to teenagers, which can last between three and 10 years, and the participants in the study agreed. 

Contraceptive pills are safe but not all types are suitable for all women, the Ministry of Health says. It's best to discuss it with a doctor, nurse practitioner, registered nurse or pharmacist prescriber.