Clare Laxton is the Policy and Parliamentary Manager at FPA. FPA is one of the UK’s leading sexual health charities – find out more www.fpa.org.uk
Choice. It’s a word bandied around a lot, and one with many meanings to many people. As a noun, www.dictionary.com defines choice in five ways:
1 An act or instance of choosing; selection
2 The right, power, or opportunity to choose; option
4 An alternative
Thinking about the second definition brings us seamlessly onto the issue of choice and access to contraception. FPA believes that it is a fundamental right of all women and men to have access to a choice of contraception. That is a choice from the full range of 15 methods of contraception. That’s right there are 15!
We believe that people have the right to choose the contraception method which is best for them. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Sadly for many people in England actually being able to choose the contraception that is right for them from the range of choices is still not a common experience.
The combined pill and condoms are still the most commonly used contraception for women under 50 years old in Great Britain, with 50 per cent of women using one of these methods. There are so many other methods of contraception out there and some women may not even know they exist!
We believe that what method of contraception you use is a lifestyle choice, not necessarily a medical one. For example, you may think of yourself as forgetful and absent minded; or you may have a job that requires a lot of travelling. So maybe a method of contraception that you have to carry around with you and take every day may not be the best option for you. Likewise, if taking something every day reassures you that you are covered by your contraception then the combined pill may well be the best option for you. There are so many factors in a woman’s decision about what contraception they use – do you want to bleed every month or not at all, do you think you might want children in a year or never – and these factors need to be considered before a woman chooses what contraception is best for her and her lifestyle. In fact, if women are able to genuinely choose a method that is right for them they are more likely to use it correctly and consistently.
The most recent statistics show that 12 per cent of women in Great Britain currently use a long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) like the injection, the implant, the IUD and the hormonal IUS. So the question remains why more women aren’t using LARCs? Is it because they choose not to, or is it because they don’t know much about them or they’re not available at their local contraception service? Maybe it’s because one of their friends has had a bad experience with one of them and that has put them off?
Whatever the reason, the point is that all women should be able to access the full range of contraception methods, and accurate, evidence-based information on contraception, to enable them to make a choice that is right for them. Surely, in the 21st Century, with all these methods of contraception, we are at a point where we can present women with a range of choices and trust them to make a decision that is best for them. In this instance, it should be all about choice.
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