Women in their 30s and 40s are at increased risk of unplanned pregnancy during the festive period, although seasonal safe sex messages often focus exclusively on their younger counterparts, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) warns today.
Last Autumn (September and October 2012) was the busiest period in that year for births, as many unintended conceptions over the festive period became wanted pregnancies. But for many women, starting the New Year with an unplanned pregnancy can be a cause for considerable distress – and older women are no exception to this.
In January and February this year we saw nearly 4,000 women over 30 for advice about unintended pregnancy, including an average of 13 women over 40 each working day.
More than 80% of the over-30s we see are already mothers. Many tell us that sorting out their contraceptive needs has come low down on the to-do list as they prepare for a family Christmas.
Emergency contraception, already harder to access free of charge for older women, may be even more difficult to obtain in this period. At the same time, persistent messages about infertility in your 30s or 40s lead some women to believe they can take chances after an episode of unprotected sex. While fertility does decline after the age of 35, in our experience women can vastly overestimate how hard it is to become pregnant in your late 30s and early 40s.
Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:
“Seasonal safe sex messages tend to involve raucous parties and office stationery cupboards. In fact the reality is often more mundane – many of the women we see are busy mums who have been run off their feet and have forgotten to pick up contraception supplies or missed a pill.
“Our message this year is think about your contraception in advance and don’t leave things to chance if you do have an accident. Emergency contraception such as the EllaOne pill and copper coils work effectively up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Women should never feel ashamed about requesting emergency contraception.
“Unplanned pregnancy isn’t just an issue for young women. It can affect any sexually active woman at any stage of her reproductive lifetime. Don’t think that being over 40 is a barrier to being pregnant, at Christmas or at any time of the year.”