Friday, 11 May 2007

Emergency contraception - myths and misinformation

About a decade ago I went with a friend to a health centre for emergency contraception. Let’s call my friend Susie. Susie went bright red as she was asked loudly at reception why she was there – “the morning after pill” she tried to whisper and was asked to repeat louder. She was so red and hot, I thought she may explode. We were told to sit down and wait. I tried reassuring Susie who felt embarrassed and ashamed, “accidents happen, no, you are not a slag. No, no-one heard you”. Imagine her horror when the receptionist bellows “where’s the one who needs the morning after pill?” And then, dropping her voice to normal levels to say, “room one”.

Fast forward ten years – A woman like you, a woman like me - a report published yesterday by Schering Health Care Limited, is an interesting read. It is a tale of myths, misinformation and embarrassment about emergency contraception. Emergency contraception is most often used by women aged 25-29 who are in a long term relationship, and yet the report reveals the incorrect perception that it is most likely to be used by teenagers, students and single women. It also shows that many women still lack basic knowledge about where to get emergency contraception, how it will affect them and how it works.

I wish I had been surprised by the findings. So what can we do so things change in the next ten years?

- Stop talking about the morning after pill and start talking about emergency contraception
- Accept mistakes happen and that taking emergency contraception is much more responsible and gives greater peace of mind than crossing your fingers
- If or when you use it, tell someone – don’t keep it a guilty secret
- Think about your workplace, school or college – what can be done to promote the truth about emergency contraception….which is that it is responsible, safe and easy to use it and that it is used daily by women just like YOU.

With these changes the next time someone like Susie needs emergency contraception there should be no stigma; no shame or embarrassment, just a recognition that she is taking responsibility for her sexual health.

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