Text service to remind women to take the pill



MORE THAN six in every 10 third-level students who are on the pill forget to take the oral contraceptive at least once a month, a study has shown.

Research was carried out by two students who, on Valentine’s Day, will formally launch a new service safetext.ie , which provides a daily text reminder to women to take the pill.

The initiative is the brainchild of two male students, Chris Rooney (21), a third-year business and law student at UCD, and Liam Ryan (21), a fourth-year civil engineering student at Trinity College.

Following anecdotal evidence from a GP, the students carried out a survey of 511 students and found that 64 per cent of those who use oral contraception miss the pill at least once a month, while 15 per cent forget to take it three times or more.

“This was obviously a worrying indication that the pill was not being used effectively,” said Mr Rooney.

Hundreds of students have already signed up for safetext.ie, which has been endorsed by the Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) and the Well Woman Centre.

The formal launch takes place on February 14th to coincide with Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance (Shag) Week run by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) in all third-level colleges.

Dr Shirley McQuade, medical director with the Dublin Well Woman Centre, said that following consultation with a number of clients she found “universal” approval for the idea of a texting service.

She said that while today’s contraception was very effective, “unfortunately many studies show that women regularly miss pills and women attending my clinic are no different”.

Mr Rooney pointed out that while some women used the alarm on their mobile phones to remind them to take the pill, many people in their study said they believed a text message would be more discreet.

“A lot of girls think that if their alarm goes off that other people will guess what it is for,” he said.

He said that due to a lack of routine in many students’ lives, they tend not to associate taking the pill with part of their daily timetable such as breakfast as it could be at a different time every day.

Alison Begas, chief executive of the Well Woman Centre, agreed that many women had “a chaotic lifestyle” and needed a daily reminder to jog their memory.

“We regularly get calls from clients who have missed the pill and who are wondering should they take the morning-after pill or take two pills to compensate,” she said.

“We would always urge them to contact their GP or someone like us to get the right advice.”

The survey found that 79 per cent of respondents believed a service such as safetext.ie would help them to remember to take the pill.

Niall Behan, chief executive of the IFPA, said research showed that forgetting the pill was the most common reason for oral contraception failure among clients seeking emergency contraception at its Dublin clinic.

He said the IFPA believed a text reminder would help reduce pill failure “and help reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies”.

The service is initially free to new clients who will ultimately be charged €10 a year which Mr Rooney said was the equivalent of three cent per message.

Safetext.ie has won a number of web awards including an Irish Web Award in 2010.

The Irish Times – Tuesday, February 1, 2011

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