Access to birth control should be one of the most important aspects of reproductive health care in every country. Fortunately the United Kingdom is taking that notion seriously by making one birth control option for women much easier to take.
For the past two years, an injectable birth control called Sayana Press has been available for women at their general practitioners’ offices. Each injection of the hormonal contraception works for up to 13 weeks and is thus a favorable alternative for women who don’t like having to take a pill every day.
However, it’s proven to be a little more ineffective than your average hormonal birth control, simply because women are not making it to the doctor on time for their booster shot. Anatole Menon-Johansson, the clinical lead for sexual and reproductive health at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, told BuzzFeed, “The failure rate with typical use is about 3 per 100 a year, and that’s because a lot of women don’t come back in time for their injection, or can’t get access to the injection.”
But this recent news should change all that — Pfizer announced early this week that Sayana Press is now available for self-administration. It is the first injectable contraceptive in the United Kingdom to be made available for use at home — a milestone event in the name of birth control accessibility.
Now, with the convenience of administering the drug at home, the contraceptive’s effectiveness should increase significantly. If women don’t have to deal with making an appointment for clinical administration every 13 weeks, the likelihood that they’ll stay on track with their doses is much higher. Seema Patel, medical director of Pfizer, told The Telegraph, “We appreciate that many women are very busy and that visiting their healthcare professional regularly to pick up their contraception can be a challenge.”
It is important to note, however, that you aren’t just sent a kit with the medication and some needles with a little “injections 101” instruction booklet. You have to go to your general practitioner’s office and receive training on how to give yourself the contraceptive injection before they’ll prescribe it to you.
However, after a short training session, you can receive a year’s supply of Sayana Press. It will, of course, still be available at GP offices and NHS clinics for women who don’t feel comfortable injecting themselves.
There are some side effects to be aware of when considering going on a long-acting injectable contraceptive. According to Menon-Johansson, 7 out of 10 women who are on it for a year stop having their periods altogether. You might notice your appetite increase, which could lead to weight gain. Other side effects include mood swings, reduced sex drive and increased acne.
A slightly controversial aspect of allowing this injectable contraceptive to be administered at home is how many underage girls have been given it in recent years. According to The Telegraph, over 33,000 girls under the age of sexual consent (18) have been given contraceptive implants or injections over the past four years. Pfizer says Sayana should only be given to underage girls when no other birth control method proves sufficient. However, many health care professionals prescribe it because it helps prevent pregnancy in the younger age groups, who might forget to take a pill on their own.