New research reveals European women's attitudes towards sexual behaviours, emergency contraceptive pill

Flexibility of pharmacy succeeds in making it easier for women to make a smart, positive decision in instances of contraceptive failure

New research released on International Women’s Day, reveals more than three in four European women (77%) are aware of the morning after pill as an option for managing the risk of an unplanned pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.

The 20 market European study conducted by HRA Pharma, marks the one year anniversary of a ruling by the European Commission authorising advanced emergency contraceptive ellaOne (ulipristal acetate 30mg) to be accessible direct from pharmacy without a prescription from a doctor. The change in regulation means that now 114 million women in Europe now have direct access to the only contraceptive pill that works when pregnancy risk is at its highest, right before ovulation.

Sexual behaviour

The research also looks at the behaviours of 16-35 year old European women on the topics of sex and emergency contraception and promisingly finds that seven in 10 would be happy to visit their local pharmacy should they need the emergency contraceptive pill. However this number drops in European markets like Italy and Germany which have only recently switched to OTC. Here women are still more likely to seek an appointment with their GP (45% and 59% respectively).

“Giving women the freedom to buy the morning after pill from their local pharmacy empowers them to choose the contraceptive option that’s right for them, whatever the circumstances,” says Frédérique Welgryn, Women's Health Therapeutic Domain Director from HRA Pharma. “Emergency contraception is not a regular form of contraception and is most effective when taken in the first 24 hours. Therefore appointment free access ensures women who have had a contraceptive failure but who are not ready to have a baby can genuinely take it at the earliest opportunity.”

Almost 2 in 5 (38%) European women reported that regular sex is an important part of relationships and more than half (52%) feel that being spontaneous is a sign of a satisfying sex life. But with spontaneity often comes the risk of unplanned pregnancy and this may be behind the reason why across Europe, 45% of all pregnancies are unintended. “Healthcare professionals must recognise that sexual relations are not always planned and where unprotected sex has occurred, which is the case in 30% of sexual intercourses, the emergency contraceptive pill is a smart, positive, choice. It is critical women are able to access this treatment at any time without fear of judgement,” continues Frédérique Welgryn.

“International Women’s Day celebrates the equality of women and we fully support the efforts and progress made on empowering the achievements of women across the social, economic, cultural and political spheres,” concludes Frédérique Welgryn. “Knowledge and understanding of the role of emergency contraception is part of this equality journey and healthcare professionals play a role in ensuring women of all ages feel in complete control of their contraceptive choices.”

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