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Almost Half Of All Women Don't Know How Long Sperm Stays Active For, Study Finds

"Many women are not aware that [a copper] IUD can be effective up to five days after unprotected sex."

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Condoms are the first contraceptive choice for Australian women, research released today by the nation's largest provider of pregnancy termination services, Marie Stopes International, has found.

The study interviewed 500 women aged 15 to 45 about experiences of unprotected sex and knowledge of emergency contraception. It found that 37% used condoms as contraception, closely followed by the oral contraceptive pill (35%).

Approximately half (48%) of the women interviewed underestimated how long sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract – up to five days.

"Outside of the body, sperm tends to die off in a matter of minutes, but the vagina and cervix are perfect environments for nurturing and looking after sperm, where they get the nutrients they need to survive," Marie Stopes Australia telehealth manager and nurse Jane Hooker told BuzzFeed News.

"The sperm could impregnate you for up to five days."

Hooker said condoms were the "most popular" choice for contraception which was "surprising".

However a report released last year by the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) found the most common form of birth control in Australia is the contraceptive pill, and that the nation lagged behind when it came to long acting reversible contraceptives such as hormonal IUDs.

Marie Stopes' study is also at odds with a larger 2015 study by Roy Morgan which found oral contraceptives remained the most popular method "by far" among the 2.5 million Australian women aged from 18 to 49 who use contraception.

According to the AHHA research half of Australian women have unintentionally fallen pregnant during their reproductive lives, despite 60% of those women using at least one form of contraception.

Most of those surveyed by Marie Stopes (97%) were aware emergency contraception – such as the "morning after pill" – was available, but fewer than a third had accessed it after having unprotected sex or contraception failure.

“There are two options available for women when it comes to emergency contraception,” Marie Stopes Australia chief executive Michelle Thompson said in a statement.

“While the emergency contraception pill is the most widely known, many women are not aware that [a copper] IUD can be effective up to five days after unprotected sex.”

An IUD is a small device that is fitted into the uterus. This is what it is like to get one.

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

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