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Sandra: Why we need to talk about contraception

Sandra was born in South Africa, and is now the Lead Nurse for Integrated Sexual Health at Whipps Cross and Newham University hospitals. She firmly believes that contraception and sexual health are key to giving

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Sandra was born in South Africa, and is now the Lead Nurse for Integrated Sexual Health at Whipps Cross and Newham University hospitals. She firmly believes that contraception and sexual health are key to giving women the freedom to pursue their ambitions. 1000women spoke to Sandra about the importance of sexual health education, and her agenda to normalise conversations about contraception and sexual health.

Earth is a finite space. In the future there will not be any more space to house people. I believe that it is a false economy to think building houses is going to sort out the population problem, as it does not end there. What about jobs and education and health?

Addressing our sexual health education with a view to normalising conversations about contraception and sexual health conversations would be a good place to start.

Contraception and supporting career development

I had a patient the other day, an architecture student who was requesting to have her implant removed. I asked, “Why do you want it removed?” She replied, “I’m not getting my period, I want to get a period.” I then said to her, “Do you understand why you’re not getting a period?” She replied, “No.”

I proceeded to get a picture of the uterus that I often use to teach my patients, and we went through the mode of action of the three year birth control contraceptive implant and discussed the reason that she was not having a bleed. At this point, I reminded her about how hard she was studying and working, and that she was still trying to build her career. I said, “The last thing you need to worry about is contraception.”

Even before I had finished the explanation, she said, “Oh I get it Sandra, I think I’m going to leave the implant in place.” This illustrates that understanding the various types of contraception increases compliance with contraceptive methods. I feel it is really important that women understand why they’re taking contraception and how it works in the body. That way, they’re likely to be more supportive of using hormonal contraceptive methods.

The impact of an unplanned pregnancy

From my experience, patients have reported that an unplanned pregnancy has resulted in them having to stop their education. Young women have had to move into their own flats and become reliant on child support. Having a baby would often render them not in education, employment or training (NEET), or they may have to be forced to continue to live with their parents. These situations undoubtedly have a negative impact on the economy, whether within the family or the borough or even national health. Young women as single parents may also not have the same support networks as a two-parent family, and unfortunately this also has all sorts of ramifications socially and economically.

For some, the decision to have an abortion was never part of their plan, however they find themselves in a situation where they cannot continue with the unplanned pregnancy. Sadly for these women, even though psychological support services are available post-abortion, these services are not accessed effectively.

My aim is to increase awareness about the positive effects of contraception and increased sexual health awareness at the beginning of a young person’s sexual life, as I don’t think we as a society are doing this very well at present.

A parent’s guide to contraception

My agenda now is to go out and talk to society. I want to develop a programme for the mothers, fathers and adults of this world, and young people as well, where we’re delivering the contraception and sexual health agenda in an informal setting – where education is fun and yet, there is serious learning that takes place.

Historically, sexual health conversations are very uncomfortable to have by their mere nature. I want to be able to empower our adult population to have these conversations in a more comfortable manner. At the moment, we have a lot of people who don’t know what they need to know about sexual health and methods of birth control, and are often misled by their peers’ negative experiences. This leads to a whole lot of myths being circulated about the dangers of birth control pills. My mission is to really correct some of these myths by having sexual health conversations with as many people as possible. I would like to start connecting to organisations that have group sessions or perhaps to arrange meet-ups.

The reason that I want to talk to adults especially is because your education comes from the home first, and the influences in your life begin with family. We have a population that has been left behind because society believes that parents have got it right or that only schools can deliver the sexual health agenda.

If parents are educated on the sexual health agenda, they are able to normalise conversations around sexual health because they would have knowledge about the different kinds of birth control, types of birth control implants, sexually transmitted infections, benefits of birth control pills and Longer Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC). They’ll be confident enough to protect their children and talk normally about it – because the bottom line for me is that sex is having a huge impact on the lives of society, whether it is negative or positive.

Find out more: Relationships and Sex Education in schools

Councils warn that the lack of sex and relationship education in some secondary schools is creating a sexual health time bomb. According to research, one in three 16-18 year old girls experience unwanted sexual touching at school, and 40% of teenage girls have been pressured into having sex.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that Relationships and Sex Education will be made compulsory in all schools for all students aged four and over. However, parents will be allowed to withdraw their children from sex education classes from ages 11-16 years old, and details are yet to be released on how LGBT inclusive the curriculum will be. Follow 1000women on Twitter for future updates.

1000women@naz.org.uk

1000women is a platform for minority ethnic women to tell their own stories, on their terms. To find out more about joining the team or sharing your story, write to 1000women@naz.org.uk

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