Real Talk about Contraception

A woman I know recently had surgery. An unknown infection caused a painful, tender swelling on her upper glute, which required an operation to be removed. Upon inspection the cause of the swelling was found to be from the contraceptive injection, which is usually administered every 3 months to prevent pregnancy.

However, during the procedure, the injection site was not cleaned effectively, and it left a small exposure for bacteria to get into the body. As a result of a woman’s own choice to use protection, to prevent herself from pregnancy, she now has to pay prescription funds for her own dressing to heal the wound every week- yet this is through no fault of her own. She now feels put off of getting the contraceptive injection again, even though she had taken the injection comfortably for 12 years before.

This is a risk that many people may have to take and unfortunately this experience, whilst rare, can happen amongst dangers of other infections. Take the contraceptive IUD, the ‘copper coil’, which is inserted into the womb and releases copper to prevent pregnancy. Whilst the IUD when inserted correctly can be 99% effective, it can also expose women to a higher rate of pelvic infections, which may lead to infertility. As such, it is not always a suitable choice for every woman.

Despite this, finding the right contraception for you is a process which requires a lot of reading into, or perhaps you may choose not to use contraception at all. It is ultimately your choice and your right.

As a user of the combined pill, I find it quite hard to access it with ease, which should not be the case. Throughout my time on the pill so far, I have been given multiple different brands when visiting my doctor. As someone who has (fortunately) never had too much trouble with side effects such as mood swings when on the pill, I’ve never needed to switch brands, yet my nurses have remained inconsistent with the pills I receive. Requiring a doctor’s appointment and being kept waiting when you’re on the last packet of your pill is also a frequent occurrence for me and this can lead to panic about my protection. However, I know that I am lucky to receive free contraception, as many places across the world lack even the basic rights to female sexual protection. Yet, I still think that easier access for all, including younger teens and all genders (and without such stigma and a fuss) needs to be addressed in the medical world.

What’s more, research stated by the BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisor Service) found that access to the ‘morning-after’ pill dropped significantly during the first national lockdown in England in 2020. The morning-after pill is an emergency contraception pill which can be taken once after having unprotected sex. It can be obtained for free but is mostly paid for.

I personally believe that the limited access to this form of contraception is worrying for this country. Whilst some see it is a way to prevent and discourage younger teens from having sex, easier access to buy contraception from a local store, supermarket, or an essential shop like Boots, could have helped to prevent a lot of unplanned pregnancies during the national lockdown. This is just one of the reasons why groups like BPAS are calling on the government to change the law in order to purchase the pill without needing consultation at supermarkets.

So, if I could change anything surrounding women’s sexual health, what would it be? It has got to be the removal of barriers when it comes to discussion about the topic! I’d like to think and hope that we are heading in the right direction. It used to be frowned upon to talk about women’s sexual health, but we need to talk about this. According to the Sexual Advice Association, 1 in 3 young women will experience a sexual health problem at some point in their life. This could be the inability to orgasm or experiencing pain during sex, but these are all common occurrences, and you are not alone in feeling this way. If we talk about this more, and don’t feel like we need to hide our feelings and seek advice, then we can live our best sexual lives!

I’ve barely scraped the barrel here with the plethora of topics on women’s sexual health, but please just keep researching, talking and stay safe (and protected) out there!

Header image credit: Avert