I recently attended a three-day family planning course, and I thought that I would use my blog to share my experiences and thoughts about contraception. It's not simply about the oral contraceptive pill!
It is always with some trepidation that I attend courses – some can be dull with little or no interaction between the delegates, others are both informative and fun with plenty of dialogue between participants. This course was, thankfully, the latter, with 11 participants from different areas of healthcare: social workers; practice nurses; youth workers; nurses from the military sector; and HCAs.
It is not until you attend a course of this nature that you realise how much choice there is for women (and men) in today's society. The first day of the course was the obligatory introductions and then came the group work, which I think I can say with some degree of certainty is not usually the most enjoyable part of any course. But I was surprised just how much I enjoyed it. The lecturer allowed enough time for the groups – three in total – to be able to have a good discussion and come up with some innovative ideas about the needs of different client groups.
We looked at all the different contraceptives available, from the oral contraceptive pill to the IUD, IUS, femidoms (female condoms) and male condoms. It is important that as practitioners we maintain current and relevant knowledge not only for our professional development, but also to give a good and comprehensive service to the population we serve. What is good for one woman may not necessarily suit another – contraception is by no means a "one size fits all" service.
In 2002 the Government announced a £40m fund for a teenage pregnancy strategy. I realise that I am throwing out a question and tottering slightly on the political edge, but shouldn't we be looking at ways of preventing teenage pregnancies rather than having a strategy for it? Could we be doing even more to educate young women on the benefits of contraception? I do not mean in any way to offend teenagers by suggesting that they do not make good, but do they fully understand the implications of having a baby – this small vulnerable person relies totally upon the parent, and this is tough for all parents, but even more so if are a teenager and are dealing with all that that entails.
But back to the contraception course, and femidoms! On the course it was pointed out that femidoms should not be knocked until they were tried. There are some who may think that the femidom would take out the spontaneity element of sex, but apparently not, as a femidom can be "in place" for some hours before it is needed. Not only does it protect from unwanted pregnancies, but also STIs – a triumph all round!
We owe it to our young (and sometimes) vulnerable teenagers, our "honeymooners" and our established "relationshippers" that whatever their needs in the contraception arena, we have the knowledge and the skills to be able to advise them with confidence and guide them through what could appear to be a minefield of information in order for them to make an informed choice. A family planning course is an ideal jumping-off spot for anyone who is unsure or just needs an update of what is out there. Give it a try.
And finally … have a good Christmas and New Year! I look forward to 2008 with optimism, and hope that the government finds the missing Benefit Records discs in someone's stocking!
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