Lower-income young women are less likely to use birth control pills, which can cost up to $50 a month. (Pixabay)

Low-income young women less likely to use reliable birth control, B.C. study finds

About 30 to 40 per cent of pregnancies in Canada are unintended

A study from the University of B.C. suggests that young, low-income women may not be able to afford some forms of contraception, leading to a higher risk of unintended pregnancy.

The study, published in CMAJ Open on Tuesday, looked at data from 2009-2010 and 2013-2014 from Canadian Community Health Surveys. Researchers compared household income and other socioeconomic factors among sexually active girls and women between the ages of 15 and 24 who were trying to not get pregnant.

Of those women, 59 per cent use the birth control pill, 17 per cent used condoms, 29 per cent used both condoms and either the pill or the shot, while 2.5 per cent used just the birth control shot. Another 14 per cent did not use any contraception.

About 30 to 40 per cent of pregnancies in Canada are unintended, according to the research, and Canada is one of the few countries with universal health care that does not offer free contraceptives.

The findings suggest women with a household income of under $80,000 a year were less likely to use oral contraceptives and dual protection and relied more on the shot and condoms only. Lower-income women were also more likely to not use any form of contraception at all.

Researchers said birth control pills can cost up to $50 a month and are 94-per-cent effective in typical use. Condoms, which are more affordable at $1 each, are 85-per-cent effective.

Dr. Wendy Norman, senior study author and associate professor at UBC’s department of family practice, said government needs to address the affordability of birth control.

“Not only does access to affordable contraception reduce the number of high-risk pregnancies and support women to achieve healthy spacing between planned pregnancies, it also benefits our public health system by decreasing avoidable health-care spending associated with unintended pregnancies,” Norman said.

“Unfortunately, among the contraceptives currently available in Canada, we find that the more effective methods are also the most expensive and the least utilized, especially among disadvantaged populations.”

READ MORE: Groups call on province for free prescriptions on World Contraception Day


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