CORONA CONTRACEPTION Coming off the pill during lockdown and where to get it as the coronavirus pandemic continues

WOMEN across the UK are struggling to contend with the coronavirus lockdown and the impact it’s having on their menstrual cycle.
As many report Covid-19 fatigue, others have also said their periods have started to take a hit and experts claim that this is due to the stress, anxiety and a change in our routines due to the pandemic.

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Many women are struggling with their cycles during lockdown
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Many women are struggling with their cycles during lockdownCredit: Getty — Contributor
But what are the options for women who are struggling with their cycles because of the pandemic and how can you still get contraception in lockdown?

When the pill was first introduced in 1961 in the UK it was revolutionary for women because it gave them more freedom. But the hormones that are in pills can lead to a range of issues.

During the lockdown period, female health and wellbeing company Hanx said it has seen an increase in interest from women who are looking to come off the pill.

Farah Kabir, who runs Hanx alongside Dr Sarah Welsh (pictured together above) said the firm has seen a jump in condom sales since the lockdown period started
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Farah Kabir, who runs Hanx alongside Dr Sarah Welsh (pictured together above) said the firm has seen a jump in condom sales since the lockdown period startedCredit: Hanx
Farah Kabir, who runs Hanx alongside Dr Sarah Welsh said the firm has seen a jump in condom sales since the lockdown period started as well as an interest in harmony kits which have been designed specifically to help women who have decided to come off the pill deal with their side effects.

«In terms of condom sales we have seen a massive spike since the middle of March and April compared to January, with a 117 per increase on condoms online.

«We saw a pattern that people were bulk buying, multiple people buying packs of tens, suggesting people couldn’t rely on the contraception they are usually using, and many are unsure when and where they can get their usual supplies.»

This is while data from Superdrug revealed that there has been a 46 per cent increase in condoms sales online and a 76 per cent increase in private prescriptions of the contraceptive pill in the last eight weeks.

What are the different types of pills and what are the risks?
When it comes to the pill you need to take what’s best for you, Dr Sarah explains the differences and the risks with the two main categories. There are two main categories of pill, combined oestrogen and progesterone, two main female hormones and the progesterone only pill.Dr Sarah says the things health pracitioners worry about with the combined pill are:
estrogen
blood clots
blood pressure
«Deep vein thrombosis can start in the legs and move up and could lead to a heart attack or stroke. When doctors prescribe these that’s why we ask about family history and blood pressure, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a small risk».With the progesterone only pill Dr Sarah says there are fewer risks.»They can create small cysts on your ovaries. But it’s important to note that there are lots of studies into taking pills and risks of cancer, breast cancer ect, some are higher risk.»Some studies say there is a risk, but the National Cancer Institute said that these risks will go back to normal after you have stopped taking the pill for 10 years.»The final risk is that if you fall pregnant there is a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy»
Why do people come off the pill?
Farah said a lot of people can’t access their pill at the moment due to a lack of GP appointments and some of the checks that are needed for different medications can’t be done over the phone.

«Right now with the coronavirus people are limited to their choices, a lot of people can’t get access to GP appointments,» she added.

«It’s a great time for people to try something new, not having to commute to work, not doing the usual daily routine.

«If you’re looking at changing contraception you might be able to as there are telephone consultations but for a lot of these medications you need to have your blood pressure and weight taken.

«If people do need to renew certain prescriptions then there can be limitations and it is harder for some people to access these.»

Condom sales have been on the up since lockdown
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Condom sales have been on the up since lockdownCredit: Getty Images — Getty
Dr Sarah Welsh said people usually worry about coming off hormones naturally and highlighted that the main concern for people is falling pregnant.

She said being at home is giving people the opportunity to see how their bodies react to change.

«Hormones, whether they are synthetic or natural, affect the body in many different ways and this is unique to each person.

«People coming off the pill should be monitoring skin changes, moods, PMS, there could be a change in bleeding and your natural period may come back.

«It’s different for other people, stress can influence libido and mood — so you should keep track of it.»

Dr Sarah added that it can take months for things to go back to normal when coming off the pill.

«If you are prescribed a pill for different reasons than from it just being solely for contraception then you do need to speak to a doctor. For example some people are prescribed it for acne — if you stop it you need to be aware that it would come back.»

When coming off the pill there are also concerns about bleeding and period pain, but Dr Sarah said people also need to be aware of their vitamin intake.

Survival guide: PMS In Quarantine
During lockdown coping with PMS might be difficult and learning to deal wth your symptoms while spending more time with your loved ones could be a challenge.Expert gynaecologist Dr. Shree Datta for women’s intimate health care provider Intimina gave her top five tips for coping with PMS while in quarantine.
Ditch the medication: Dr Shree said as long as you are aware of your symptoms and respond accordingly you don’t always need to use medication. «So whilst at home, chart your cycle and symptoms on an app so that you can anticipate symptoms and review their severity. Look at whether there is anything which makes them better or worse.»
Watch your food: What you eat might have an impact on your mood and Dr Shree said salty foods might make you feel more bloated. «Watch your diet whilst at home and see whether alterations affect your symptoms over a cycle».
Get 40 winks: Sleep hygiene is important all the time but even more so during your cycle. Dr Shree says you should use the opportunity of working at home to monitor your sleep habits — for example, avoiding heavy exercise before bedtime. «You may find a regular bedtime with a period of reading before sleep relaxes you more in the second half of your cycle, with a real impact on how severe your PMS symptoms are.»
Exercise: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends considering cognitive behaviour therapy such as exercise Dr Shree says perhaps a run or home exercise class and taking vitamin B6 might help you relax. «Now is a great time to trial these options and monitor how they affect your symptoms», she added.
Practice mindfullness: Dr Shree says now would be a good time to try out meditation in order to manage the stress you are going through. «Be mindful of how this affects your PMS; you may actually see an improvement in your PMS symptoms during this time!»
The team worked with Vitl vitamins to design a supplement for the side effects women may have when coming off the pill.

Dr Sarah said people need to be nutritionally supported.

“A general rule is that Vitamin D levels are low when coming off of hormonal contraceptives and this needs to be replaced. We have low sunlight levels in the UK so it’s important to get Vitamin D.

«The vitamins we created also contain Vitamin K to ensure good bone health. Prolonged use of hormones lowers levels of Vitamin B12, folic acid, iodine and magnesium, there are also added nutrients such as biotin, zinc — which is good for the mind and Vitamin C to help with the absorption of iron”.

I still want to take the pill, where can I get it during lockdown?
As the pandemic continues it’s important to know where you can get your contraception.

The pill is still available and those who already have a prescription can call their local GP surgery, where in most cases, if no blood pressure checks or weight checks need to be carried out then they will send your prescription to your local pharmacy where you will be able to collect it, usually within a 48 hour period.

If a check is needed in order for you to be prescribed the pill, it may be that your GP gives you a smaller prescription size to get you through until it’s more acceptable for you to attend the surgery again.

Many sexual health needs would usually be covered by clinics and with them being shut, pharmacies have stepped in and are also able to provide advice to patients.

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