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Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has announced the expansion of the Free Contraception Scheme to now include women aged 32 to 35. With this extension, all women aged 17 to 35 are now covered under the scheme, which was initially introduced in September 2022 for women aged 17 to 25.

The Free Contraception Scheme covers the cost of consultations with GPs, family planning, student health and primary care centres, and prescriptions for a wide range of contraceptive options available on the Health Service Executive (HSE) Re-Imbursement List. The scheme is available to women, girls, and other people identifying as transgender or non-binary, who are ordinarily resident in Ireland and deemed suitable for prescription contraception by their doctors.

Minister Donnelly highlighted the scheme’s success, stating:

“Improving access to contraception is a Government priority and I’m delighted with the success of the Free Contraception Scheme to date. Almost 2,400 GPs and 2,050 pharmacies offer services under the scheme, with more than 189,000 women accessing these services in 2023.”

The scheme has received strong demand since its inception, leading to its phased expansion. Initially targeting women aged 17 to 25, it was extended in 2023 to include those aged 26-30, and further expanded to women aged 31 in January 2024. Supported by approximately €48 million in funding for 2024, the latest expansion aims to provide equitable access to reproductive health services for women aged 32 to 35.

“We know that many women in this age group may be planning to start families, with 33 years being the average age to give birth,” Donnelly added. “However, it is important that we continue to support women in providing equitable access to services that allow them to control their reproductive health, avoid unintended pregnancies, and use hormonal contraceptives to treat adverse symptoms of periods.”

The Free Contraception Scheme includes long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs) such as injections, implants, and hormonal and copper intra-uterine devices and systems (coils). It also covers emergency contraception and oral contraceptive methods like the pill, patch, and ring. All related costs, including LARC fittings, removals, injections, and checks, are fully covered by the State.

Prescriptions under the scheme are dispensed at the local pharmacy of choice, and for LARCs, patients return to a service provider for device fitting and removal. Women who have had devices inserted while eligible for the scheme will remain eligible for follow-up care and free removal after their 36th birthday, ensuring continuity of care.

For more information on free prescription contraception and the National Condom Distribution Service, individuals are encouraged to visit the HSE’s Sexual Wellbeing website, which provides regularly updated details on accessing the scheme.