Fewer patients in the Bay of Plenty are asking for condoms now alternative long-term contraceptive options have become available.
The number of patients opting for condom prescriptions has declined from 4700 to 3800 over the past five financial years, say Pharmac figures on subsidised contraceptives.
Long-acting implants such as the Jadelle implant, inserted into the upper arm, have become popular with patients since they were subsidised in 2010, although patient numbers have dropped since then from 500 at the end of the 2011 financial year to 400 last year.
Nationwide, the number of patients asking for subsidised contraceptives fell across all categories, including condoms, emergency contraceptives, oral contraceptives, implants, copper intra-uterine devices (IUD) and progestogen-only contraceptives. Those asking for condom prescriptions dropped from 97,200 in 2009 to 80,300 last year, and those asking for emergency contraceptives also fell from an estimated 63,400 to 48,000 over the same period.
Jadelle implants rose from 10,100 in 2011 to 13,600 the following year, but dropped back to 12,700 last year.
Bay of Plenty District Health Board Sexual Health Clinic doctor Lorna Claydon said one of the challenges facing the clinic was the number of young people not using any contraception despite being sexually active.
"They don't want to get pregnant but say issues such as embarrassment, stigma, cost and even opening hours can prevent them accessing contraceptive services.
"I think that is another reason long-acting methods are popular, they're discrete and don't require ongoing follow up."
She suspected fear of pregnancy was a greater motivator for condom use than fear of sexually transmitted infections, so those using long-acting contraception could be less likely to use condoms.
The clinic had dispensed fewer condoms for the first quarter of 2014, compared to the same period in the previous two years, she said.
Jadelle implants and long-acting contraceptives were attractive to younger clients who found the routine of taking a regular oral contraceptive pill difficult, although the clinic did not insert implants or IUDs, she said.
Implants and IUDs could be removed by appropriately-trained GPs and at Family Planning.
Family Planning national medical adviser Dr Christine Roke said "fit and forget" long-acting contraceptives such as Jadelle implants had become popular with varying age groups nationwide, so a drop in other forms of contraceptives was expected as women made the switch.
"The use of these long-acting reversible contraceptives is wonderful ... we are delighted about that."
She was surprised at the decrease in copper IUDs, but said it was possible more women preferred the unsubsidised product Mirena, which was not counted in the Pharmac statistics.
"We think it's still a shame that the Mirena - the hormone IUD - isn't subsidised, and it's just so much more expensive [so] Pharmac haven't been able to subsidise it."
The drop in patients wanting condoms could be attributed to the popularity of implants, as fewer people required condoms for contraceptive purposes.
The Pharmac figures covered medical prescriptions dispensed at community pharmacies, but did not include over-the-counter sold condoms or private sales of emergency contraceptives.
It was possible for patients to have repeat prescriptions, so the number of contraceptives dispensed could be higher than the number of patients, Pharmac spokesman Simon England said.