Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 65(4) November 2015

Deep concern about the large rise in contraception prescribed to teenage girls.

Girl injecting contraceptiveFigures, compiled by the Government’s Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) [1], show that in the last four years 33,000 girls under 16 were given contraceptive implants and injections.

In the year ending March 2014, just under 10% of all 15 year olds received contraceptives from Sexual and Reproductive Health Services. The use of contraceptive implants has been rising and 5,400 girls under 16 were given implants. Of those, 1,800 were aged 14 or under. In the same period, 3,000 teenage girls aged 15 and under received a hormonal injection to prevent pregnancies. Of those, 800 were just 14 and under.

In total, over the past four years, the NHS dispensed contraceptive implants to 21,700 girls who are legally too young to have sex, while a further 12,100 girls under 16 were given injections – a total of more than 33,000. Girls as young as 10 have been given contraceptive implants by NHS

Meanwhile figures from Kings College show that GPs are handing out contraception to 75000 girls each year. While 2.3% of girls age 12-15 were prescribed the pill in 2002, that almost doubled to  5.2% in 2011. Dr Asia Rashed, of the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at King’s College London, who led the study, told the Mail on Sunday: "I was surprised by the figure. Five per cent is high."

In the face of these rising numbers the CMA was asked to comment upon these figures.

Our spokesperson said:

  • ‘It is very worrying to see so many underage girls being prescribed contraception. I am also worried that these figures show the increasing marginalisation of parents from the protection and formation of their children.
  • ‘By prescribing contraceptives, GPs may be seen as condoning, supporting or even encouraging early sexual activity. They need to be aware that that may compromise lifelong relationships and stable family life. That may lead onto a society where families, as the cradle of the next generation, are less stable than they have ever been.
  • ‘While the "Gillick" ruling was in force, the provision of contraception to teenagers reduced as did the abortion rate. I would still question the validity of the assumption that providing more contraception to teenagers avoids abortions. Rather, contraception appears to primarily affect and increase sexual behaviour in teenagers and the young.
  • ‘I am concerned that a lot of the contraception provided is not going to prevent sexually transmitted diseases in these young girls. The majority of contraceptives provided appear to be injection-based and these will not prevent Chlamydia, Human Papilloma Virus and other common infections. Early sexual activity is related to both infertility and cervical cancer. That stores up infertility and great suffering for these girls later on.
  • ‘From another health perspective, long acting contraceptive side effects include weight gain, depression later life osteoporosis with a greater risk of bone fractures later. There is little data about the effects on girls whose bones are possibly still growing.
  • ‘When doctors prescribe something, they will often be seen as recommending it.
  • ‘There are good reasons why the age of consent in not less than 16. The appalling stories of abuse, coming from Rotherham, Sheffield, Parliament and many other places makes it clear that girls are very vulnerable. The Rotherham experience was that social care and health services missed abuse and were reassured. Surely we must all be worried that the provision of contraception continues to rise among teenage girls.’