Only a fifth of Europe's youth use birth control
Irish Examiner 26/09/2007
by Mary Regan
A QUARTER of young people don't use contraception the first time they have sex, and just a fifth of those aged 15-24 protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.
The European-wide figures are released today for the first World Contraception Day, which aims to reduce the high level of unplanned pregnancies and educate people about sexual health.
Ireland joined other countries yesterday as Hollywood actress Mischa Barton launched the worldwide event with the theme: "Live your life before you start another."
Speaking in Berlin, the 21-year-old star of The OC said: "I know that I feel too young to have a child and many people of my age probably feel the same. I want to encourage all young people to follow their aspirations and live their lives to the full.
"They should only have a baby when they're ready and not by chance. Every child should be wanted.
"That is why increasing awareness of contraception and reproductive health is so important."
World Contraception Day in Ireland is organised by the Irish Family Planning Association, who said that 136,000 Irish women have had a crisis pregnancy at some point in their life.
Director of Pregnancy Counselling Services Rosie Toner said: "It's important to acknowledge that teenage pregnancy can be a positive life choice for some young women, and it is equally important to ensure that they are provided with information to enable them to make an informed choice about parenthood at a time that is right for them."
Posters will be put up in colleges around Ireland and radio ads will provide information on how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
The home page of the Bebo website will today feature advice on contraception and a new website www.your-life.com has also been launched to mark the event.
As part of World Contraception Day, five Irish girls were given "virtual babies" to see if they could cope as a teenage mother.
Anne Crotty, 20, from Kilkenny, said the initiative would help young women to become more aware of contraception. "I had it for three nights and two days. It looks like a doll, but its behaviour is very realistic. It had a few different cries and all the same needs as a baby.
"The first night I had it, I woke three times, once for two hours. It was more or less the same the other nights.
"The first day wasn't too bad, it slept most of the day. The second day it had loads of crying fits for no reason. I had to wear a wrist watch so it would know if I was close by or not, and then I just had to figure out why it was crying and fix it by changing its nappy or feeding it or whatever," she said.
She said the dolls should be provided as part of a programme for girls, and boys, in secondary schools.
"It taught me how much time a baby takes, and how you have to be very prepared both mentally and physically.
"Before doing this I had a naive notion that if you put it down it will just sleep. But your freedom is really taken away from you," she said.