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the pill

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Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed the launch of a public consultation on increasing access to contraception.

Earlier in 2019, Harris created a working group to consider the policy, regulatory and legislative issues regarding improved access to contraception.

The Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment recommended access to free contraception, which the Minister has repeatedly claimed he hopes to achieve.

Image: RTÉ

Harris claimed he was aiming to give all women access to free contraception this year, and the public consultation will remain open until midnight on Monday, August 5 and is available on the Department of Health website

“Removing barriers to contraception in a key priority for me as Minister for Health,” Harris said.

“We have begun that work through the expansion of free access to condoms this year. This allows for expanded access to the groups most at risk, and within the youth sector, including third level facilities," he added.

Harris continued by emphasising the importance of public opinion in terms of informing the government and stakeholders on the issue.

“I would encourage all those with an interest to engage with the Department’s consultation before it concludes. It is our ambition to have the working group’s report concluded by September,” Harris said. 

The consultation responses will inform the working group's assessment of the problem, and should aid the group in making appropriate recommendations to the Minister.

The working group will investigate the extent to which cost is a barrier to getting reliable contraceptive options in this country.

Other factors influencing ease of access to contraception will hopefully also be addressed, such as financial barriers, legislative barriers, regulatory issues, and contractual issues. 

At the moment, women who have a medical card can gain free contraception. Without a medical card, the public have to pay for an initial consultation as well as a repeat appointment every six months for a renewal.

Options apart from the pill include the Implanon implant, or the Kyleena or Merina coil. Injections and a patch are other, less common options.

TheJournal.ie previously stated that Simon Harris has been lobbied by a pharmaceutical company and the pharmacy union in recent months, as plans for potential free contraception progress.

Feature image: RTÉ

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Research has discovered that ONE IN THREE women have heard the classic excuse of the condom being "too small to use."

We're feelin' pretty smug at this news, but we thought it would be three in three, to be honest…

A study has proven that just FOUR percent of people experienced problems with the condom legitimately not being big enough to use, despite so many women hearing the excuse. LOL.

golden girls condom GIF

Scientists were seeking to dispel the fallacy through their testing of condom sizes with an air compressor, and found that the condoms expanded to well over the average penis size.

The NHS and King's College London have previously said that the average size is 5.16 inches long.

However, engineering firm SGS Engineering maintain that the condoms measured roughly THREE FEET LONG by one foot wide when inflated to full capacity, so it seems a lot of men are telling fibs.

the 40 year old virgin hand GIF

A spokesperson for the engineering company who tested the barrier contraceptive said: “The condom, when inflated, would be approximately the same size as an Alsatian.”

A DOGGO. A REAL-LIFE BIG SIZED DOGGO. Let that sink in for a minute.

Researchers talked to 1,000 people in the UK to discover common attitudes to condom use, and found that only one-third of sexually active 18-24 year olds use condoms, and just 41 percent of sexually active folk across all age ranges use them. Alright then, do you want a baby/STI? Did you not see Mean Girls?

sex ed GIF

70 percent of those who were quizzed said they don't use a condom every time they have sex because they use another contraceptive method, such as the pill (24 percent of y'all are smart), withdrawal method (13 percent of y'all are stupid) and sterilisation (10 percent).

This is next level absurd; one in ten people said they didn't use condoms because of the WEIRD SMELL.

20 percent said the reason was discomfort, while 16 percent said it was because they reduced the pleasurably sensation, and 8 percent said they 'forgot'. Fools.

However, of the 70 percent of people who cited another contraception being used, one third just assumed that this was the case but there wasn't any proof. Mmmkay then. 

Half of people experienced an unplanned pregnancy because they didn't use condoms. See? Sex Ed is IMPORTANT people.

Condoms are up to 98 percent effective at protecting against STIs and unwanted pregnancies, 15 percent of people in the survey said they didn't trust condoms for fear of splitting.

Only three percent if these worries are based on this happening to them previously though.

andy samberg flirting GIF

A spokeswoman for SGS Engineering, Natalie Richardson, commented on the results;

 “The findings were surprising – particularly how anti-condom some men seemed to be, despite them not considering any other contraceptive methods."

“Potentially women are being told the excuse as a way of avoiding condom use because of sensation reasons. However, in most cases the risks far outweigh the benefits of ‘increased sensation’,” she added. Damn right they do.

happy the simpsons GIF

Ian Green of sexual health service organisation Terrence Higgins Trust said that the best way to protect against STIs remains to use condoms;

“There is the right condom out there for everyone. Penises come in a whole range of different shapes and sizes – and condoms do too. For example, if you do find standard condoms too small, then you should try a king size option."

“Last year we saw big jumps in rates of both gonorrhoea and syphilis, which is why more needs to be done to promote condom use, the range of different shapes and sizes available, and the importance of regular testing," he continued.

"This is particularly true among groups most affected by STIs in this country, which includes young people, gay and bisexual men, and people from BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) communities.” 

The Family Planning Association, said regular sized condoms are suitable for most penis shapes and sizes.

Karen O’Sullivan, who has 30 years of experience working in sexual health wrote : “We would advise anyone who knows that regular condoms aren’t suitable for them, for whatever reason, to carry appropriate options with them so they can have safe sex."

Sexual health provider SH:24 said health providers need to move away from the “one size fits all” contraception mentality.

“When patients come into a clinic, they can often assume all condoms are the same size so we also want to see better education around choices and how to use condoms properly,“ they said.

It just goes to show, we need to massively step up when it comes to sexual health education, because myths are still circulating.

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A new proposal put forward by the Irish Pharmacy Union (IPU) has called for a number of hormonal contraception methods to be made available for free and without prescription. 

The Irish Times reports that, should the new measures come into effect, the pill, the patch, and the ring, would be freely available for all women over the age of 17. 

The proposed scheme would see pharmacists undergo additional training in line with international guidelines on the provision of contraceptives.

In order to avail of the scheme, women would not be required to have previously been prescribed a hormonal contraceptive.  

A spokesperson for the IPU said: “Given the professional input and the time involved in providing the service, consultation fees in line with those already paid for the EHC consultation to GMS patients (currently €11.50 plus ingredient cost and standard dispensing fee) would be appropriate.”

Similar to the push back on the provision of the morning after pill in 2011, it's likely that GPs would strongly oppose such a change.  

“There are no clinical reasons why oral contraceptives should still require a prescription. The oral contraceptive is one of the safest and most well-studied medicines available,” according to its proposal.

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An estimated 100 million women around the world use the contraceptive pill everyday.

They give us the option to plan and control our reproductive choices, but they can also bring on some pretty awful side effects.

In a recent study, scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden confirmed that this popular form of contraception can actually have a negative impact on a woman's quality of life. 

Researchers gave 340 healthy women aged between 18 and 35 either hormonal contraceptive pills or placebos over a three month period.

The results found that the women who took the hormonal pill reported reduced feelings of overall well-being, including negative impacts on mood, self-control and energy.

However, researchers did note that despite these findings, the pill didn’t actually appear to increase the participants’ risk of depression.

In a slightly concerning statement on the institute’s website, the scientists admitted that the medical community knows “surprisingly little” about how the pill can effect a woman’s health, and emphasized the need for further studies into the subject.

They also noted that because the changes observed between the participants were relatively small, the results should be interpreted cautiously. 

However, the study's co-author, Dr. Niklas Zethraeus, did encourage women to take these findings into account when choosing a method of contraception. 

So, if you reckon your pill is making you feel a bit worse for wear, you're not the only one. 

 

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If you're on the pill, then you'll know that there can be some nasty side effects.

You freak out if someone looks at you the wrong way, bloat like a balloon in the space of two minutes and cry at the end of Batman VS Superman (true story).

We have handled these side effects – and many more – for years, and even when people thought we were bizarre, we knew it was just the pill playing tricks on us.

However, now it has been confirmed that oral contraceptives do indeed effect our emotional responsiveness.

In a recent study published in the European Neuropsychopharmacology (try saying that fast), it found that women taking the pill may be less in tune when it comes to emotional situations, and find it more difficult to share empathy with others.

So, that explains why we act like a grade A b*tch sometimes.

The researchers studied 73 women in total. 18 of those didn't use any oral contraceptives, 30 of the women were on the pill and the remainder were on their pill-free week.

They looked at three elements in each woman – emotional recognition, perspective-taking and affective (emotional) responsiveness. With the first two elements, all of the women scored fairly similar, but it was the affective responsiveness that blew up the charts.

The ladies were all asked to read a sentence designed to provoke an emotion in them. They were then asked how they would feel if what was happening in the sentence, happened in real life.

The study showed that "females currently taking the pill showed better performance than those in their pill-free week." So basically, our emotions and empathy go up and down as we go on and off the pill.

The end of the study notes that "little is known about their impact on psychological processes and emotional competencies.

"The current study highlights the need for future research to shed more light on the neuroendocrine alterations accompanying OC [the pill] intake."

Don't worry though, all that crazy gives us a little more charm… right?!

 

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Over the past ten years alone, the Pill has helped to prevent an incredible 200,000 cases of womb cancer.

And in the 50 years since oral contraceptives were first introduced, a total of 400,000 incidents of the same cancer have been avoided.

That's according to Oxford University researchers – who also found that for every five years that a woman takes the oral contraceptive, the risk of developing endometrial cancer decreases by 25 percent.

And in females who have taken the Pill for ten years, rates of womb cancer diagnosis in under-75s also fall from 2.3 per 100 to just 1.3.

Previous research has shown that the Pill furthermore protects against ovarian cancer.

Incredibly, the Oxford study concluded that the protective effects of the Pill, which includes a dose of oestrogen, last for decades after someone stops taking the contraceptive – with women in their 20s continuing to benefit when they are in their 50s.

Professor Valerie Beral explained: "People used to worry that the Pill might cause cancer, but in the long-term, the Pill reduces the risk of getting cancer."

However, women are still being advised to weigh up the risks – especially if they have a family history of breast cancer – as some research suggests it can slightly increase the risk of this particular disease.

The Pill was first introduced in the US in May 1960, although back than it was licensed only for menstrual disorders.

In 1966, contraception became legal in the States for married women, and by the 1970s it was in wide usage. At the same time in Ireland, imports and sales of contraceptives had been expressly banned since 1935.

In 1971, the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement published a booklet called Chains Or Change, which called for equal pay, an end to the marriage bar, equal rights in law, justice for widows, deserted wives and unmarried mothers, equal educational opportunities and contraception.

They famously travelled from Dublin to Belfast and back on the ‘contraceptive train’, returning gleefully waving various birth control devices, then legal in Northern Ireland, at custom officials.

By 1978, the Irish Family Planning Act allowed the provision of contraceptives under prescription, and finally in 1985, condoms and spermicides could be sold without a doctor's approval. 

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