No matter how old you are, it’s important that you know which contraceptive options are available to you and how you can access them. The age of consent in the U.K is 16, although some people choose to have sex earlier, but you are legally considered an adult at 18. Some young people may be concerned about trying to access contraception under the age of 18, because it may not be clear what your rights are, what options are available and whether your parents need to be involved.
We know that talking to a pharmacist or doctor about sex and contraception can feel embarrassing and intimidating, and you might be worried about being judged. We want to empower you to take charge of your contraception, ask questions and know your options so you have the knowledge you need to make the right choice for you. We spoke to pharmacist Deborah Evans and Dr. Jessica Langtree to find out more.
Is there a lower age limit to taking the pill?
There is no lower age limit for contraceptive pills and you don’t need parental permission to go on the pill, but there may be safeguarding concerns around young people taking contraception if they are under the age of consent. Medical professionals want to keep you safe and ensure that you’re not being pressured into anything you don’t want to do.
“The clinician would make a decision based on whether they felt the individual was competently able to make their decision in an informed way,” says Deborah Evans. “There would also be a safeguarding issue if someone was under 13 and if there were any issues around potential abuse. At the end of the day, you want to protect the individual from getting pregnant, but equally, you need to make sure that they’re not being subjected to abuse.”
It’s important that people can access contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancy and feel in control of their reproductive health, and it’s also important that people have sex on their own terms, when they want to and when they personally feel ready. It’s your body and your choice, and nobody else has the right to decide when or whether you have sex or engage in any form of sexual contact.
If anyone is pressuring you to do anything you don’t want to do, or if someone is making you uncomfortable in any way, know that there are people you can talk to. It’s always recommended that you speak to a parent or caregiver, but if that doesn’t feel right to you then a doctor, counsellor or organisations like Shout, Childline, Safeline and the NSPCC are there to listen and help you – and your conversation will be confidential.
What do I do if I want to go on the pill for the first time?
Contraceptive pills are a popular method of contraception which are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken correctly. There are two types of contraceptive pills available: combined pills, which contain oestrogen and progestogen, and progestogen-only pills (also known as mini pills) which just contain progestogen. Find out more about contraceptive pills.
For most hormonal contraceptive methods, you will need to speak to a GP or go to your local sexual health clinic, where a medical professional can help you make an informed decision. You can also buy some progestogen-only pills containing desogestrel, like Hana®, over the pharmacy counter with no need for a prescription. You can also buy Hana® online. When purchasing progestogen-only pills from a pharmacist or online, you will complete a checklist for the pharmacist to see if your chosen contraceptive method is right for you. Check if Hana® may be suitable for you.
If you’re starting contraception for the first time, you may want to have a chat with your doctor to find out more about which contraceptive methods are suitable for you. There are lots of contraception options available, so you may find that you need to try a few options before you settle on something that feels right. Your method of contraception may also change throughout your life, depending on your relationship status and personal circumstances. Find out more about contraceptive methods here.
Will I be judged for going on the pill?
Doctors and pharmacists are trained to help people with all kinds of things. They are there to help you, not judge you.
“Looking after your reproductive and sexual health as a woman is an important aspect of your overall health,” says Deborah Evans. “It’s not anything to be embarrassed about. In fact, being proactive and taking control of your reproductive health is a really positive thing. Your healthcare professional, whether it’s your GP or your pharmacist, will be trained and comfortable to have those conversations with you. They’re not embarrassed about it.
“If you prefer, you can go into a private consultation area with your pharmacist for privacy. The pharmacist will ask you very straightforward questions just to make sure that this form of contraception is appropriate for you, and to listen to any concerns you might have and address those. It’s a very normal thing.”
If you have any questions about contraception, remember that you can ask your doctor or pharmacist. They are there to help you and provide information to help you feel safe and secure.
*Deborah Evans and Dr Jessica Langtree do not endorse any products or brands
Hana® 75µg film-coated tablets contains desogestrel and is an oral contraception for women of child bearing age to prevent pregnancy. Always read the instructions on the package leaflet carefully.