Access to good quality and affordable contraception should be every woman’s state-guaranteed right. Even though this issue exists in developing nations around the world where even primary healthcare is a luxury for most, it is surprising to see that developed nations face this issue as well. A stark number of women in these countries are unable to afford or gain access to affordable, good quality, and reliable forms of contraceptives. The UK is one of the areas in which this problem is extremely prevalent. Statistics show that women who do not have access to affordable and good quality contraceptives tend to resort to other methods of birth control, and may even adopt unsafe methods of abortions in case of unwanted pregnancies. All of these are extremely risky for a woman’s health and can end up being fatal in the long run as well.
For this very reason, the UK has begun to pay particular emphasis on improving access to contraception for women and ensuring that these fundamental rights are given to women. NGOs, the NHS, and many activists are currently working on policy and principle changes in organisations and institutions that can help ensure that women have better access to contraceptives and reproductive healthcare. Despite this activism, there are many concerns faced by women regarding getting access to contraceptives in the UK.
Problems faced by women in the UK in accessing contraception
A lot of contraceptive options such as implants and IUDs are incredibly expensive for the average woman. Not only does the actual procedure cost a lot, but doctors’ appointments and clinic visits, and tests results can also amount to a hefty bill unless covered by government-sponsored health plans or insurance policies.
2. Lack of training
A lot of GPs and doctors, according to one of the very few doctors still doing implants and IUDs in the UK, are unqualified and ill-trained to handle procedures such as these. While implants and IUDs are quite non-invasive compared to other methods, the skill and technical knowledge and experience required for these procedures are lacking in a lot of the doctors and GPs in the UK.
3. Underfunding of clinics
Many clinics in the UK that have trained doctors and GPs who can fit coils and implants properly are severely underfunded. With other clinics having a minimum six week wait time, and most places not having trained GPs, these underfunded clinics for LARCs can only do so much for the women in the UK.
4. Local health budget
Apart from the issues mentioned above, the local health budget focusing on reproductive and contraceptive healthcare for women must be allocated by the local councils. This budget should be able to sustain contraception provision for the women of the area and should ensure that they get access to LARCs and other forms of contraception. It should also be able to sustain women who cannot afford private healthcare and high-end insurance.
How access to contraception can be improved for women in the UK
Even though there is much work being done to help women in the UK get access to contraception, there is a lot more room for improvement. Here are some ways in which women in the UK can get better access to contraception:
1. Policy changes
Petitions and requests made to local councils to increase budgets for reproductive and contraceptive healthcare for women is something that can significantly help regarding funding GPs and clinics that aim to provide these services for women.
A problem that the UK faces is that people do not understand how vital LARCs are in comparison to the pill. Even though the pill has been revolutionary regarding its effects on women’s contraceptive health, and has also helped many women in their lives, it is not the only solution for women who want to access contraception. Long-acting, reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are a much better solution for women and are much safer as well. For this, young girls and women must be educated about the kinds of contraception available, and what kinds best suit them.
3. Other methods of contraception
Other forms of contraception such as the patch and condoms have been a lot more popular than LARCs, which is why it is necessary to remove the surrounding taboo women who purchase these contraceptives in drugstores and pharmacies across the country. It is essential to ensure that women feel comfortable going into stores and getting contraceptives without feeling as if those around them may judge them.
In case some women still do, there are online pharmacies, such as Click Pharmacy, that can deliver medication and emergency contraceptives in case young girls and women are unable to go out to procure these items themselves.
4. Training of doctors
A lot more doctors and GPs must be trained to ensure that women who want access to LARCs and forms of contraception like sterilisation do not have to wait for 2-3 months, and can make appointments with more trained specialists. This requires UK’s medical colleges and universities to take into account the sheer lack of infrastructure exists, and how these trained doctors can improve upon that and provide excellent healthcare.
The most obvious solution is for budget allocations to prioritise reproductive and contraceptive healthcare for women, but that seems either unlikely or something that will take much time over the years. In either case, alternative methods can significantly help women who wish to gain access to reproductive healthcare and contraceptives. If in a few years, women become more aware, a few policy changes are made, and if newer and more trained doctors can come into the sector of women’s reproductive health, then the UK can have a lot more women who are safer, healthier, and happier.