So you’ve pulled the girl you’ve been after for ages, or maybe just some randomer in a club. You’ve stumbled out of the taxi and got her upstairs. One problem… you’ve not got a condom. She says “It’s fine, I’m on the pill.” But do you trust her?
She’s probably telling the truth – at least she thinks she’s “on the pill”. But does she know what she’s doing?
Over the last year, I’ve been astonished to hear some stories from my friends who are quite honestly oblivious to the proper way of using self-controlled contraception.
Mentioning no names, one girl took 3 pills in front of me after a one night stand. To my horrified question of “Did you use any other protection?”, she shrugged and said she’d missed three days but that it’s fine if you take the pills you’ve missed. She was astounded when I told her that if you miss a pill by 12 hours, you need to take the missed one and use extra protection for a week. And that’s if you miss one, not three!
Upon retelling this story to other friends, they expressed a similar reaction and were also unaware that the week of extra protection is necessary.
Another friend sits at the other end of the scale – she took the morning-after pill because she was concerned after sleeping with someone during the “off week” of the 21 day pill. In contrast to the previous example, this is an over precaution and unnecessary – you’re still protected on the pill-free week.
I’m not entirely without fault either. Admittedly, antibiotics are a bit of a grey area at the minute – some doctors claim they don’t affect the pill anymore, whereas mine advised me to use precautions anyway. I assumed this meant being careful for the duration of the antibiotic course, but upon reading the label (a couple of weeks afterwards) found out that you’re supposed to continue using extra protection for a week after the course has finished. Oops.
It does make you wonder whether these people you hear of getting pregnant while on the pill were just experiencing the consequences of their own ignorance.
Does some of the fault lie with doctors, who just take your blood pressure every 3-6 months and sign the prescriptions, but rarely offer any advice, instead assuming that you’ve been on the pill for a while and you know what you’re doing? When I last went for a consultation to get another lot of pills, I was in the room with the doctor for less than 30 seconds. University surgeries may be busy, but are they underestimating the need for more interaction with patients, especially when contraception is concerned?
At the end of the day, it is your own responsibility to make sure you are using contraception correctly, but perhaps some basic (and potentially life-changing) facts should be reinforced more regularly.
It might sound prissy to encourage girls to read the label clearly, but some people really do need a refresher (if they ever read the instructions in the first place).