Ensuring that every child is wanted and born into an environment with the emotional and material resources needed to care for her or him well is a vital public health goal. Contraceptives ranging from condoms and ‘the pill’ to intrauterine devices (IUDs) and long acting injectable and implantable products enable women to control their fertility and improve their lives, as well as those of their children and partners.
Minimising the harm caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and genital herpes is another important public health goal. Britain can claim success in preventing and treating HIV and STIs such as syphilis via the NHS. Citizens of all the UK nations enjoy free access to a wide range of high quality sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services.
This heritage is valuable. However, until recently rates of unintended conceptions to British teenagers were well above the western European average.
This report explores issues relating to access to contraception and allied forms of sexual health and social care in England and the UK more widely, with special reference to optimising the use of the full range of contraceptive techniques by women as they progress from the start of their sexual lives in their teens (the average age of first sexual intercourse for females in Britain is 16 years – FPA 2011a; NATSAL, 2013) and twenties and on through their thirties, forties and fifties.