Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) raises important questions about reproductive choices for women with learning disabilities in the UK.
LARC methods are increasingly popular across the country – think the IUD (or copper coil), IUS (hormonal coil), contraceptive implant and the injectable (depo).
These methods are all long-acting in that they don’t require any action from the woman to keep providing effective protection against pregnancy. They are also reversible because fertility returns once they are removed.
What’s the problem?
For many women with learning disabilities LARCs may be a brilliant option. They are highly effective at preventing pregnancy. They can be particularly helpful for women who don’t want to remember to take a pill every day or who don’t like the lack of spontaneity that comes with condoms.
But there are concerns that some people may find it hard to reach their own free decisions on LARC use. Some women may feel pressure from other people to use LARC methods, perhaps from worries that they won’t use other methods correctly or that they really shouldn’t get pregnant right now.
Some women may find barriers
getting their LARC removed if they aren’t getting on with it, and want to try another method, or indeed if they want to try to have a baby.
Others may want to give LARC a go but have to travel or wait a long time for an appointment.
What about LARC for women with learning disabilities?
In the past some people have been threatened by the idea that a woman with learning disabilities can reproduce and have pushed these women to use contraception to stop them having children.
Sadly, these problems have not gone away. Engender Scotland recently published a report
finding that disabled women and girls are more likely to be prescribed LARCs than other women. Often decisions were made by caregivers or service providers based on what was convenient.
Another study in England found that the injection Depo-Provera was over-used for women with learning disabilities including for women who were not sexually active (McCarthy, 2009).
Can you help?
At BPAS we think it is important that all women are supported to be able to make free, informed choices about contraception and pregnancy.
To help make sure that the UK protects these rights we have partnered with Lancaster University to investigate how LARC methods are currently being provided in the UK.
We would be thrilled if you would fill in our survey to share your thoughts and experiences with us.
You do not need to have used a LARC to complete the survey. We are interested in your experiences with the services that provide LARC – it doesn’t matter if you have tried the methods or not.
At the end of the survey there is an opportunity to tell us if you would like to take part again, at a later date, by talking to a researcher. These interviews can take place over the phone or on a video call, and we offer a £10 high street voucher as a thank you for your time.
To ask any questions about the project, please email Taylor or call 07925 398470