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Prescription-free pill doubts raised

A health expert has argued that long-acting forms of contraception are the answer to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and not allowing the pill to be issued without a prescription.

Dr Sarah Jarvis, women's health spokeswoman for the Royal College of GPs, said the UK's high rate of unintended pregnancies is a result of women not taking the pill regularly and making it easier to get the pill will not reduce the problem or cut teenage pregnancies.

Instead she said long-acting contraception, such as implants which are effective for at least three months, would be a better way of reducing unintended pregnancies.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Dr Jarvis said the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) indicated in 2005 that low use of long-acting contraception compared with the Pill or condoms was one of the reasons for high rates of unwanted pregnancy.

She wrote: "About 8% of women of childbearing age in the UK (with a 15% teenage motherhood rate) use long-acting contraceptives, compared with about 20% in Sweden, where the rate of teenage motherhood is 4%."

Earlier this month, it emerged that women would be able to obtain the oral contraceptive without the need for a prescription from Lambeth and Southwark PCTs.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

British Medical Journal