A sharp drop in the number of men undergoing NHS vasectomies in England could be linked to a recent increase in abortions among older women, experts have said.

Over the last decade the NHS has seen a fall of more than 50% in the procedure, according to data from the NHS Information Centre and Hospital Episodes Statistics published by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas).

In 2001/02 there were 37,700 vasectomies performed, compared to 15,106 in 2011/12. This year's figures also represented a 16% decline from 2010/2011.

Researchers from Bpas said the declining number, which does not include those carried out at private clinics, could be prompted by a number of factors, including restrictions on funding or greater emphasis on contraceptives for women such as hormonal and copper coils.

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Men may have reservations about committing to the "snip", one of the most effective forms of contraception, because of an increasing awareness that a relationship may break down, amid the rise of second families.

It could also explain a recent increase in abortion rates among older women over 30, which have risen 10% in the last decade, Bpas added.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of Bpas, said: "Vasectomy is a safe and reliable method that gives men the opportunity to play an active role in contraception. It is disappointing that the only long term method which enables men to play this part is declining.

"We must ensure that all couples who want to use this method can access it promptly on the NHS, while recognising that it won't be for everyone.

"Creating more choice is vital. We sincerely hope that the research into creating a reversible male contraceptive that is currently under way results in a method that will have a real impact on the involvement of men in family planning."

Countries with a low rate of vasectomy, such as France where the procedure was banned until 1999 and remains uncommon, have a relatively high rate of abortion amongst older women.

England has historically had a high vasectomy rate, with around 16% of the male population under 70 having undergone the procedure, and a lower abortion rate among older women.

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    1 in 2 women believe that all types of contraception require you to do something regularly to be effective

  • Fact

    "Some long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) such as the implant or intrauterine contraceptives do not require regular administration in order to be effective." - Dr Diana Mansour, Consultant in Community Gynaecology and Reproductive Health Care and Head of Sexual Health Services, Newcastle Hospitals Community Health

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  • Fact

    "Missing a pill can significantly impact the risk of becoming pregnant particularly if you have unprotected sex around the time of the hormone free interval. If you do miss a pill, follow the instructions on your packet of pills." - Dr Diana Mansour, Consultant in Community Gynaecology and Reproductive Health Care and Head of Sexual Health Services, Newcastle Hospitals Community Health

  • Myth

    "Around 1 in 4 women believe that long acting reversible contraception (LARCs) are permanent and irreversible contraception solutions."

  • Fact

    "Long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are not permanent forms of contraception and are reversible. For example once an implant, intrauterine device (IUD) or intrauterine system (IUS) is removed, there is no evidence to suggest a delay in the woman's fertility return." - Dr Diana Mansour, Consultant in Community Gynaecology and Reproductive Health Care and Head of Sexual Health Services, Newcastle Hospitals Community Health

  • Myth

    Nearly 1 in 5 women believe that all contraception requires a monthly visit to their Healthcare professional (HCP)

  • Fact

    "That's not the case - for example following the fitting of an intrauterine contraceptive, women should return to their healthcare professional for a check at about 6 weeks and then they don't need to make another appointment until it needs changing." - Dr Diana Mansour, Consultant in Community Gynaecology and Reproductive Health Care and Head of Sexual Health Services, Newcastle Hospitals Community Health

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    More than half (58%; 2,451 out of 4,199) of women think that long term contraceptives should not be used if you may suddenly decide you want to try to have a baby.

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    "Long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are not permanent forms of contraception and are reversible. There is no evidence of delay in return of fertility when an implant, intrauterine device (IUD) or intrauterine system (IUS) is removed. There could be a delay of up to one year in the return of fertility after a woman stops having the contraceptive injection." - Dr Diana Mansour, Consultant in Community Gynaecology and Reproductive Health Care and Head of Sexual Health Services, Newcastle Hospitals Community Health

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    Almost a third of women (31%; 1,309 out of 4,199) think that contraceptive pills have the highest rate of efficacy when compared to other methods.

  • Fact

    "This is not true. The most effective methods of contraception, based on 'typical-use' are the contraceptive implant, intrauterine contraceptives and male and female sterilisation with less than 1 woman in 100 becoming pregnant using these methods. "'Typical-use' refers to how effective a contraceptive method is for the average person who does not always use the method correctly or consistently. For example, women who use oral contraceptives perfectly will experience almost complete protection against pregnancy. "However, in the real world, some women may forget to take a pill every single day, and pregnancies can and do occur to women who miss one or more pills during a cycle. So, while oral contraceptives have a perfect-use effectiveness rate of over 99%, their typical-use effectiveness is closer to 91%." - Dr Diana Mansour, Consultant in Community Gynaecology and Reproductive Health Care and Head of Sexual Health Services, Newcastle Hospitals Community Health

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    Nearly 1 in 5 women think that long term methods all need surgical insertion into the uterus.

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