Contraception shortages in the UK having ‘detrimental’ effect on women: ‘They deserve better’

We asked a doctor to share her thoughts.
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  • For months women have faced prolonged uncertainty over the availability of certain contraceptive products, but now experts are warning these shortages could be “detrimental to the physical and mental wellbeing of women and girls".

    Back in August 2019, news broke of the nation’s contraceptive pill shortage. Now, six months on, leading healthcare professionals have stated that – due to a lack of progress and answers – women will face serious consequences.

    If the contraception problem wasn’t concerning enough, the issue runs alongside a national shortage for Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) treatments, used by women going through the menopause. So women of all generations are being affected by this worrying shortage.

    Healthcare professionals, doctors and MPs are demanding answers from the government on this issue and, specifically, why it seems to be unique to the UK.

    Health professionals pen angry letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock

    Many common contraceptives are unavailable/ Credit: Getty

    In a recent development, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the British Menopause Society and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, asking for a group to be set up to tackle the issue.

    The letter revealed that women are being left in “distress”, due to the lack of contraception and HRT available. It explained that common contraceptive tablets such as Cilest and Loestrin are currently unavailable and this is having a knock-on effect on other healthcare. Health professionals stated, ‘We are concerned this situation may lead to a rise in unplanned pregnancies and abortions, whilst inadvertently affecting the most vulnerable in our society.’

    Diane Danzebrink, founder of the Menopause Support campaign, branded the shortages as a ‘national disgrace’ stating the ‘women of this country have been let down and neglected by the Government’.

    Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetrician, also made it known that it, ‘remains unclear why there is a shortage in the first place’. He wrote, ‘The lack of transparency around why these shortages have occurred is extremely frustrating. Thousands of women and girls have been adversely affected by this ongoing situation and they deserve better.’

    Dr Edward also went on to explain that action is required from the UK government to get to the root of the problem.

    It’s clear UK women are already facing serious consequences, as a result of the shortage, and this will undoubtedly continue without government intervention.

    What this means for women who take contraception

    GoodtoKnow spoke to Dr Geetha Venkat at the Harley Street Fertility Clinic about how the national shortage may affect women up and down the country. Here’s what she had to say:

    What do the contraception cuts mean for women?

    “It would seem that a number of daily pills and a long-acting injectable contraceptive are suffering from supply shortages and this worrying given the recent issues with HRT medication availability.

    “This can be an issue for women who not only use contraception to prevent pregnancy but also help deal with medical issues such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Endometriosis.”

    What will the consequences be?

    “The main issue will be women not having access to their medication, which could result in possible increase in unplanned or unwanted pregnancies. In turn this could lead to increased use of emergency contraception.

    “If women are taking contraceptives for medical conditions, not taking their pills could cause symptoms to flare up or worsen. Additionally, there may be a rise in anxiety and stress for these women.”

    What are the solutions? Will people be able to get contraception elsewhere or alternative forms?

    “We believe that the Government is speaking with manufacturers about the supply chain to resolve this. We suggest that to keep safe and prevent unwanted pregnancies, people use other forms of contraception, such as condoms, but if you are worried, speak to your GP, pharmacist or family planning nurse.”

    The ongoing HRT crisis

    According to The Guardian, the country’s HRT shortage was reported as far back as November 2018.

    Now, a year and four months on, the situation has escalated to catastrophic levels. Last month, the British Menopause Society warned that Indivina tablets will be out of stock until the end of next month, some Evorel patches will not be available until March 2020 and various FemSeven patches may be unavailable until next year.

    The shortage is said to be down to manufacturing problems, a lack of of raw ingredients, regulatory issues and some firms withdrawing products.

    This ongoing HRT problem is leaving women in crisis, with many struggling as they go through the menopause. Some women have been forced to switch HRT brands or even stop completely, which has prompted a whole host of side effects including anxiety and hot flushes.

    Last month, Matt Hancock vowed he would intervene on HRT treatments, but it remains unknown what the Government has planned to address these contraception shortages.