Contraception and the NHS

The 1960s in Britain and America was a great time of change for women. Contraception came in, and in 1967, the Abortion Act was introduced. It was also a time when the oral contraceptive pill emerged on the market for public availability. This was to allow people to get contraception readily and easily, and even free of cost on the NHS.

Okay, so let’s fast-forward to 2018. There are various brands of condoms out there, such as Durex, Pasante, and more. As well as having a handful of different brands, there are also so many types of condom you can get, all the way from Latex-free to strawberry flavoured. Like condoms, there are also so many types of contraceptive pill that women can take, as well as the coil and the implant. With all this choice, aren’t we just running out there and grabbing as much of this stuff as we can? The answer is: no, we can’t. Why? Because it is not as quick to get them as we are led to believe.

This is when I shall share my own experience of trying to get contraceptives through the NHS. I am a 19 year-old woman, who goes to university, and most of the time I am working hard and going through my to-do list. Generally, I am pretty healthy, apart from a few stomach problems and seeming to get the flu about twice a year. However, there is one small hiccup I have had to deal with since puberty kicked in… periods. When I first started getting them at 12, I was having two a month, which were both on the heavy side. At this point, I was only using sanitary pads because I was so young, and always had to use the night time ones. After a while this got so bad that I went to the doctors. I got put on a combined contraceptive pill for about a year in the hope it would sort things out. And, at first glance, it seemed to. I came off of that pill after a year of taking it, and things seemed to be okay. It was not until about the age of 17/18 that I noticed problems again. This time, my periods were irregular so that some months I would have two periods, some months none at all. So, May 2017, I went back to the doctor, who reluctantly put me on Yasmin for 3 months. Although I told them it was for periods, they still made me feel extremely uncomfortable for going there at all, probably thinking I was servicing my whole home town. Things then got better, my skin cleared up, the periods got lighter, and everything seemed… pretty good actually. I got a repeat prescription again, and felt satisfied that I had sorted the problem.

Until. November 2017. I had run out of my pill, but at this point I was at uni and not at home. I was going home anyway though, and went to my local doctors. They told me I was not registered there because I was not currently in the catchment area. I had to sign a bunch of forms just to get an emergency appointment, despite them definitely having seen me before, and finally got in to see the doctor. It was the same doctor this time, and I explained my problem to them. They filled out a prescription form, and told me this time it was a pill called Lucette, because they had stopped making Yasmin as much in the UK anymore. However, they told me it was exactly the same as Yasmin, so I said okay and went on my way. As soon as I started taking Lucette, I met with so many problems. I had all number of side effects from back pain, to mood swings, to extremely low sex drive. I also kept spotting which meant I was always on edge and had to check myself constantly to make sure I wasn’t bleeding. So in the end I stopped taking it, because it had caused me so many problems. I signed up to the GP practice near my uni, and a week later made an appointment. I got to my appointment, I explained everything to the doctor, who then asked me questions about my periods and so on. He talked to the pharmacist who told him that Yasmin WAS still being made in the UK, unlike I had been told previously, its just more expensive to make. He put me on 3 months worth of Yasmin and in early January I went back on my pill.

Again, I had no issues with Yasmin, and it was a godsend for me. This week, unfortunately, I ran out of Yasmin.  I called in to my doctors but got put in a queue. So I walked to the doctors anyway, as it wasn’t too long a walk. Once I got there, I queued up and then got told the doctor would call me at some point that day. I was not told a time, though. That afternoon, I missed the call from the doctor, that because of no caller ID, I could not call them back. So I called the reception a couple of days later, which was, incidentally, today. I got told the doctor would call me in an hour. I then just pottered about waiting. Sadly, I missed the call again. So, I was back on the phone to the reception. 29 missed calls later, I got through. I then got put fourth in the queue. I finally got through and they said I would get a call when the doctor had had lunch. A couple of hours later I was still waiting, wasting away my day instead of going to the library, which had been my plan. Finally! I got the call I had been waiting for, had a quick chat, and got signed up to a couple of months more.

Although I got the pills in the end, it troubles me that I have had so many problems with the NHS getting the contraceptive pill several times, when it should be quick and easy to do. I think doctors also need to be completely clued up on all the different types of pill out there to make sure they are choosing the right pills for people. We may have come a long way in 50 years but we still have some work to do. I hope we get there.

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