Contraception carelessly shunned by women over 40 leading to more abortions

contraceptionAlthough the menopause typically hits women at about the age of 50, a good number of women experience this ‘change of life’ in their 30s or 40s, where their ovaries no longer produce eggs, monthly periods are no more and it is very unlikely the woman will become pregnant.

Therefore, this could be behind an increasing number of women in their 40s undergoing abortions, as their attitude towards contraception and fertility becomes more lax in comparison to women in their 20s.

According to abortion provider The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), over four in ten women over the age of 40 who undergo an abortion have carelessly not been using any contraception. Despite being younger and viewed as potentially more immature, less than one in three women in the 20 to 24-year-old age bracket found to not be using contraception then went for an abortion.

In 2002 there was 6,531 abortions carried out for women aged between 40 and 44, but by 2012 this had soared to 7,737.

BPAS say a large number of women are under the impression that by their 40s, it is so difficult to fall pregnant that they can avoid using any contraception altogether. This is inexplicable and quite absurd when considering the wide variety of options out there for women in the present day, such as Dianette, Marvelon, Yasmin, Zoely, or the Levonelle 1500 morning after pill – an emergency contraception pill that can be taken within 12 hours of unprotected sex and no later than 72 hours after.

In addition, experts also say that as women are commonly warned about a lower chance of motherhood in their 30s due to declining fertility, this message has been taken to extremes and now means women older than this are simply foregoing safe sex in the assumptions they will not become pregnant.

Prof Neil McClure, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Queen’s University Belfast, says: “Women should not rely on their increasing age as a method of contraception.”

BPAS are responsible for conducting the majority of abortions in Britain paid for by the NHS, with more abortions seen for women aged over 35 than for females under the age of 18.

Ann Furedi, bias Chief Executive said: “Over the past few years we have seen much scaremongering about older women’s fertility. From ‘career women’ leaving it too late to older women ‘banking on IVF’ to conceive, these stories lead many women to dramatically underestimate their own fertility later in life.

“At bpas we see more women over 35 with unplanned pregnancy than we do women under 18. We know from speaking to women that stories and campaigns suggesting it’s hard to get pregnant after 35 – even if well intentioned – are having a real impact on women’s perception of their own fertility, and therefore their use of contraception. Women deserve accurate, impartial information to make their own choices about family planning in their 30s. Fertility does decline as you get older, but the drop is not as great as we are sometimes led to believe. For women who don’t want to fall pregnant the message is simple: use contraception until you have passed your menopause.”

Prof McClure added: “The message needs to be that fertility is lower in older women when compared with younger women, that fertility does decline after the age of 35 but women over the age of 35 are still fertile and need to use contraception right up to the menopause if they do not want to conceive.”

Data from the Office of National Statistics show that since 1990 there has been more than a double rise in the conception rate for the over-40s, jumping from 6.6 to 14.0 conceptions for every thousand women. The number of over-40s becoming pregnant increased from 12,032 in 1990 to nearly 29,000 by 2011, whilst conception rates in women aged 35 to 39 almost doubled in the same time frame.

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