Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Monday, June 14, 1999 Published at 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK


Health

'Emergency contraception should be easier to get'

Emergency contraception should be more available, say chemists

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), which represents chemists, wants the 'morning after pill' to be available without prescription to stem the tide of teenage pregnancy.

At present, a patient, whatever their age, must see their GP or go to a hospital casualty unit to get emergency contraceptive pills, which can be prescribed up to 48 hours after sex.

But pharmacists say that embarrassment and inconvenience stops sexually-active teenagers making appointment with family doctors, leading to many unwanted pregnancies.

'Restrictions should be lifted'

They want some of the restrictions on the sale of the pills lifted.

Speaking on the BBC's "Today" programme, Roger Odd, head of professional and scientific support at the RPS, said: "We have a lot of sexually-mature children in this country, who still need support to manage their lives.

"Perhaps through ignorance, accidents occur - what do these youngsters do? They have teenage pregnancies which are unwanted.

"We have a safe form of emergency contraception, which has been tested for safety by the World Health Organisation, and many leading gynaecologists and family planning doctors believe it could be made more widely available."


[ image: The morning after pill is only available through GPs and hospital A&E units]
The morning after pill is only available through GPs and hospital A&E units
However, Dr Bill O'Neill, from the British Medical Association, said he believed that simply making the medicine easier to get was not the answer.

He told the BBC: "It's not just a question of giving a packet of pills, it's about providing a whole range of services to young people.

GP can be visited in confidence

"We have got to make sure they know they know they can go and see their GP and see them in confidence."

A doctor's own professional rules forbid them from telling a child's parents about their medical problems unless the GP feels that the child is too immature to give the necessary consent to medical treatment.

But the General Medical Council advises that this judgement should be based on the level of maturity of the child, not simply their age.

Dr O'Neill said that young people asking for emergency contraception also needed to be given information about safe sex, not simply provided with medication.

He said: "We need to make sure that schools are involved in this, that emergency contraception is needed, that school nurses and teachers are liaising with local GPs."

Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe - six times that of the Netherlands - and the Governnment initiative aims to halve that in the next decade.

The"morning after pill" works by giving high doses of the female hormone oestrogen or both oestrogen and progesterone.

Can cause nausea and vomiting

The abrupt stopping of the dose when the pills wear off causes the inner lining of the womb to break down and shed in a similar manner to a normal period.

So even if an egg has been fertilized it cannot implant in the lining of the womb.

However, the "morning after pill" often causes nausea and vomiting.

Some doctors suggest that the copper Intra Uterine Device (IUD) as an alternative, as it can be inserted up to 120 hours after sexual intercourse. However this is not recommended in teenagers.





Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

14 Jun 99 | Health
Boys face teen pregnancy crackdown

10 May 99 | Health
Boys told how to use condoms

10 May 99 | Health
School nurses 'may dispense the Pill'

11 Apr 99 | Health
Male pill success

16 Feb 99 | Health
Abortions continue to rise

16 Feb 99 | Health
Party sex teenager splits opinion

14 Jan 99 | Health
Casualties 'waste time' over contraception

07 Jan 99 | Health
A short history of the pill





Internet Links


General Medical Council: confidentiality advice

Contraception advice

BMA


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99