Let’s talk about sex survey results

packet of contraceptive pills on pink background

Many unplanned pregnancies occur despite the use of contraception, writes Dr Philip Goldstone

In Australia, there are approximately 200,000 unplanned pregnancies every year1 and an estimated one in four women will experience an abortion in her lifetime2. The majority of women (67%) who present for an abortion were using a modern method of contraception at the time of conception3.

This is because no form of contraception is 100% effective and there is low uptake of the most effective methods, long-acting reversible contracepives (LARCs). Emergency contraception is the last contraceptive option for women to avoid an unintended pregnancy.

In November and December 2016, we conducted an anonymous online survey to better understand women’s experiences with unprotected sex and their knowledge and use of emergency contraception4. The survey was completed by 512 women of reproductive age (15 – 45 years old) who had not tried to become pregnant in the previous 12 months.

The survey found that:

  • Over half (52%, 265/512) of the women surveyed were unsure about when ovulation occurs or incorrectly thought that ovulation was predictable based on the days of the menstrual cycle.
  • Assuming sperm can survive for up to five days in the female reproductive tract, half (48%, 248/512) of respondents underestimated how long sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract.
  • Over a third (35%, 178/512) of the women who completed the survey had experienced at least one instance of unprotected sex or a contraceptive accident in the previous 12 months.
  • Half (49%, 32/65) of 15-19 year old respondents reported having experienced unprotected sex or a contraceptive accident in the last year.


This article is the first of a three part series.

For more information, please contact info@mshealth.com.au.

Disclaimer: Marie Stopes International in Australia includes the Dr Marie network of clinics and the not-for-profit pharmaceutical company, MS Health. MS Health is the sponsor of the EllaOne® (ulipristal acetate) emergency contraceptive pill.


Dr Philip Goldstone is the Medical Director of Marie Stopes International in Australia (Dr Marie and MS Health)


  1. Victorian State Government, ‘Pregnancy – unplanned,’ Better Health Victoria, viewed March 2016, <http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au>.
  2. Pregnancy Outcome Unit – SA Health, Pregnancy Outcome in South Australia 2013 , October 2015.
  3. Abigail, W et al. (2008), ‘Changing patterns in women seeking terminations of pregnancy: A trend analysis of data from one service provider 1996-2006’, Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 32, no. 3, p.235.
  4. Survey data on file at MS Health

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