Monday, June 18, 2007

Irishmen have a lot to learn about contraception and safe sex

Irishmen still have a lot of learn about contraception and safe sex, according to a new report, Men, Sexuality and Crisis Pregnancy: A study of Men’s Experience from the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (download page here).

Professor Harry Ferguson and Fergus Hogan, authors of the report, interviewed 45 men on their sexual histories, knowledge of sex and how they acquired it, contraception, sexual practices and pregnancy services. The researchers specifically recruited men who had experienced an unplanned pregnancy –30 men in the sample of 45. Nineteen of these men experienced a crisis pregnancy.

The research found a general lack of knowledge of women's menstrual cycle and a belief that the “withdrawal” method is an acceptable method of contraception, even though the men had doubts about the level of protection it provided against pregnancy.

There were also instances where men felt pressured to have sex before they understood their capacity to make a woman pregnant.

The term “safe sex” meant different things to different men. For some men it meant preventing pregnancy, for some it meant penetrative sex without ejaculation, for others it meant preventing sexually transmitted infections. In fact, there was very little awareness of STIs in this sample in general.

In addition, some men reported that they did not use condoms because they were embarrassed to buy them, they interrupted sexual pleasure, they were under the influence of alcohol, they thought that condoms could not be trusted, they were in the habit of relying on emergency contraception, or they deferred the responsibility for contraceptive decisions to the woman.

Although 30 men in the report had experienced an unplanned pregnancy, 11 of the men, primarily from disadvantaged backgrounds, welcomed the pregnancy, seeing an opportunity to find a meaningful role for themselves as fathers.

Nineteen of the men in the report had experienced a crisis pregnancy. In the ten cases where the pregnancy went to full-term, the authors found that the defining characteristics of these situations were; the man had some kind of vision of himself as a father, he was willing to state his wishes and feelings in relation to the pregnancy and he showed willingness to have a flexible approach to creating a family. Other defining characteristics were the couple's belief that their parents and extended family would support them as a couple, and the capacity of the couple to adopt a flexible definition of family, which is not linked to marriage or cohabitation. For example, the couple may decide not to live together, but the man would still have an active role as a father.

Crisis Pregnancy Counselling is available free of charge to women and men at over 30 locations around the country. To access the services, freetext list to 50444 or visit

Authors of the report are: Harry Ferguson, Professor of Social Work at the University of the West of England, Bristol and Fergus Hogan, Course Leader in Applied Social Studies and Academic Co-ordinator of the Centre for Social and Family Research, Waterford Institute of Technology.

While the Agency has concentrated on general access and knowledge of counselling services, it says it will now work towards increasing awareness among men that crisis pregnancy counselling services are available to them, free of charge, to talk in confidence about their experience. Kerry Counselling Service have been funded, on a pilot basis, to offer a free support group for men experiencing crisis pregnancy. Funding has also been allocated to the Teen Parent Support Programme in Co. Louth to increase the awareness and engagement of men during crisis pregnancy and in parenting their child.....

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