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Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee


Press Release The Morning After: A cross Party Inquiry into Unplanned Pregnancy

Over half of unplanned pregnancies happen because people are not using sufficient contraception, a survey by a Cross-Party Parliamentary Inquiry shows.

A Cross-Party Parliamentary Inquiry, supported by 2020health, into unwanted pregnancies, highlights three main findings:
1.That a large proportion of unwanted pregnancies are happening because people are not using sufficient contraception;
2. That there is inadequate Sex and Relationship Education in schools; and
3. That there is a lack of access to contraception for over 25s.

Just over half of the women who took part in a survey by 2020health were not using a reliable method of contraception at the time of becoming pregnant. 27.9% or participants were not using any contraception at all, whilst 9.3% were relying on natural family planning and 14% on the withdrawal method.

Gail Beer, Consultant Director, 2020health, said that “the majority of women who have an unplanned pregnancy find it distressing and are unhappy about it, the reasons for low use of contraception are not clear, and are most likely to be the outcome of a complex framework of influencing factors. These may include, risk taking behaviour, coerced sex, substance excess or abuse, an unconscious desire for pregnancy, mental health problems and peer pressure.”

However, in part this surprisingly low use of reliable contraceptive methods does reflect the inquiries second finding that there is inadequate Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in schools across the UK. Often staff who teach SRE have not had any training, are unconfident, embarrassed and have inadequate knowledge themselves. One research study showed that 1 in 10 teachers did not know that chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Moreover, content of SRE focuses on the biological side of sex, often fully ignoring relationship issues and the top five things which children want to learn about. Julia Manning, Chief Executive, 2020health, said that “Children say their main concerns are: 1. body confidence, 2. how to avoid peer pressure to have sex, 3. how to treat a boyfriend or girlfriend, 4. love and 5. virginity. It’s very sad that their views are not being listened to.” Research indicates that young people who experience high quality and thorough SRE are more likely to choose to have sex for the first time later in life, and so acts as a protective from unplanned pregnancies.

Third, the low rate of contraceptive use among those who have experienced an unplanned pregnancy could also be a reflection of inadequate access to contraception. Further, abortion rate in women aged over 25 are rising and the inquiry found that access to contraception for this age group was worse than for the younger population. This is partly due to the fact that one in six PCTs have put in place ‘black list’ equivalents for formulary arrangements to restrict access to particular contraceptives, because there is a lack of trained professionals who can fit and remove Long Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC) and because women who have work and child care responsibilities find it difficult to visit their GP or local clinics during their limited opening hours.

The committee suggest that a national strategy needs to be implemented that tackles unplanned pregnancy in all age groups. In particular, the Department of Education needs to introduce a statutory Sex and Relationship Education across the UK, with a focus on relationship education. This could help to form a more rounded view of what is involved in a sexual relationship as opposed to just a sexual encounter. Further, the National Commissioning Board and Public Health England must ensure that all women must have equal access to contraceptive services appropriate to age and circumstance.


Note to Editors

1. For interviews, comment or further information please contact Gail Beer on 020 3170 7702

2. is an independent, grass-roots, Think Tank passionate about creating a healthy society. We identify issues and bring informed people together to create these solutions. 

3. MSD is providing sponsorship to for the cost of conducting research and the associated publication and dissemination of the inquiry report. MSD has not been involved with the content development of this press release.

4. MPs on the Cross Party Inquiry Committee:
Amber Rudd, Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye (Chair)
Sandra Osborne, Labour MP for Ayr Carrick and Cumnock
Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat MP for Solihull

Unplanned Pregnancy - Online Survey Results (PDF, 292 KB)

As part of the Cross Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Unplanned Pregnancy an online survey was run from 25th September to 2nd November 2012. It was promoted on the 2020health website as well as tweeted by 2020health, MPs who were involved in the inquiry, Mumsnet, other organisations who were interviewed as part of the research process and other interested
parties. It consisted of 22 multiple choice questions. 345 people took part in the survey with the largest number of participants falling within the 25-34 age bracket.

BBC Radio 4 Sex and relationships education

In line with the '3 Billion Rising' campaign Amber Rudd MP discusses the recent 'Cross Party Inquiry into Unplanned Pregnancy', supported by 2020health, with Stella Creasy MP. Including why sex education should include relationships education. read on Sex and relationships education

BBC 2 Newsnight

Amber Rudd MP discusses the findings of the Report on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman