Big rise in numbers of women aged over 44 seeking crisis pregnancy counselling
More women aged 44 and over are seeking face-to-face pregnancy and post-abortion counselling, it emerged yesterday.
These middle-aged women accounted for 69 of the 1,300 clients who had counselling at Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) clinics last year.
This represents a 38pc increase - up from 50 - in 2013. In 2012 they made up just 12 of those counselled, said the annual report.
It said that while an unplanned or crisis pregnancy can happen to a woman at any stage of her life, older women can sometimes be less informed about contraception than younger women.
"This highlights the importance of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information and services across all age groups," it added.
IFPA counselling director Evelyn Geraghty said the increase in the number of older women accessing pregnancy counselling services needed further research to understand the trend.
The report said 52 of the women and couples counselled had a diagnosis of foetal anomaly in their unborn child.
They made up 4pc of the clients and they increased in number by 26pc since 2013.
"Many of these clients were referred by nurses and midwives in maternity hospitals, indicating that our counselling service is trusted by professionals nationwide," it said.
Some 146 migrant women accessed the face-to-face counselling service, making up more one in 10 of the clients.
"Some of these women were unable to travel freely to another State to access abortion services due to travel or visa restrictions," said the report.
"Many had also experienced additional barriers, such as lack of economic resources, language difficulties and lack of familiarity with Irish law.
"These barriers can cause significant delays in accessing abortion services and seriously impact on women's physical and mental health."
Some 44pc of the clients who availed of counselling were aged 25 to 34.
Most attended before the pregnancy had progressed to 13 weeks.
Meanwhile, the agency also provided 577 women, girls and couples with post-abortion counselling.
"Many women attend counselling to express their anger and frustration at being forced to travel to another state to access abortion services," said the report.
"Also, women attend to express their stigma as a result of seek abortion."
IFPA chief executive Niall Behan said: "At a time when a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution is likely, we need to start thinking about what kind of reform should take place.
"The IFPA knows from its services that what women need is access to abortion services in Ireland that are dedicated, high quality, and based on international best practice standards," he said.
Whatever reform takes place, it must ensure women's health and well-being, he added.