Pregnancy scares are aptly named: they sneak up on you and can be pretty scary. Rose Jackson explains what to do if you or a friend might be pregnant.
If you’ve had unprotected sex the night before, or the condom broke, a pregnancy test will not be able to accurately indicate whether you’re pregnant or not. It’s time to think about emergency contraception. This does not protect against STIs, so if the unprotected sex was with an unfamiliar partner then it’s worth thinking about having a sexual health screening too. It is also worth noting that emergency contraception is not an early abortion: these two methods do not terminate a pregnancy but rather prevent ovulation.
The two options available are the emergency contraceptive pill – commonly known as the ‘morning after pill’ – or an IUD. The morning after pill is mistakenly named as it can be taken up to 5 days after sex, depending on the type. Levonelle must be taken within 72 hours and ellaOne within 120 hours, and there is little difference between the two pills. You can get it on the NHS from your GP, your local pharmacy (including Boots), and Brooke clinics. You can also buy it for around £25. After taking the pill, your menstrual cycle will be disrupted, so it’s important to continue using protection.
The other method of emergency contraception is an IUD. This is a small T shape made out of plastic and copper that is inserted into the uterus, and it prevents an egg from fertilisation or implanting in your womb. The benefit to using an IUD as emergency contraception is that you can choose to have it left in as ongoing contraception to prevent pregnancy in future.
If it’s been a while since your last period and you’ve noticed pregnancy symptoms then it’s worth taking a pregnancy test. It’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of symptoms can also be linked to stress.
First of all: let’s check. You can buy pregnancy tests from any pharmacy, but you can also just as effective ones from Poundland. Tests are also available free from your GP, pharmacist or sexual health clinic such as the Sandyford Centre. With most pregnancy tests, you pee on a stick and you find out the results within a few minutes. If it’s positive then it’s a good idea to take a second test again as false positives are possible. If they are positive then you should go and talk to your doctor. There, they will retest you, and then take you through all options available regarding continuing the pregnancy or not. It’s your body and your choice – whatever you decide to do is valid and okay.
If you are further along, but under 24 weeks (except in certain circumstances), then you can have an abortion. The NHS offers two types of abortion: medical or surgical abortion. For a medical abortion, you take two medications (usually 24-48 hours apart) to induce a miscarriage. A surgical abortion is a minor procedure, usually with anaesthetic, to remove the pregnancy. If you live in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland or the Isle of Man, then you can contact Abortion Support Network [https://www.asn.org.uk/] who offer advice and financial assistance to travel for the procedure. If you need to take time out from university to do this, you don’t need to disclose it to the University of Glasgow as it is classed as sick leave.
If you want to continue with your pregnancy and your studies, then you should read through the university’s maternity policy . The university aims to support all students, and the main point of contact is your Advisor of Studies. They’ll talk through your options with you. All students are actually required to take two weeks off after the birth of a child, and students should be allowed to take a year out of studies.
If you would like to continue the pregnancy but not keep the child then you should talk to your GP about adoption. The BPAS and CoramBAAF have lots of resources and advice on the technicalities of adoption, as this requires a legal process.
If the sexual encounter that led to pregnancy was not consensual and/or violent, Rape Crisis is there to help support you. They can collect evidence if you would like them to and store it as a third party reporting centre. This means that if in future you would like to report it to the police, you can do so without having to make an immediate decision. They have specially trained counsellors to help you with the trauma. Some people who have been raped and become pregnant want to continue the pregnancy, others don’t. Both decisions are equally valid, and it’s your choice as an individual.
Light vaginal bleeding is normal in the first trimester (the first twelve weeks). However, the main indicator of a miscarriage is bleeding from the vagina, which can be accompanied by cramps and pain in the lower abdomen. If you are worried, you can contact the non-emergency NHS advice number, 111, or 999 in an emergency.
If you have a miscarriage and it was an unexpected pregnancy then it can be hard to know how to feel. The Miscarriage Association have a page of resources to help you through. Miscarriages often do not have a direct cause, and having a miscarriage does not mean you did anything wrong.
Whilst pregnancy can seem like the scariest thing, it’s going to be okay. Surround yourself with supportive family and friends, and be kind to yourself. Whilst it might not be what you planned, the control is still in your hands. Your body, your choice.
University maternity policy- http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_128109_en.pdf
NHS website pregnancy section: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-and-baby-care.aspx
Be careful if you are researching abortion, there are a lot of pro-life websites out there with misleading information. The NHS website is the most reliable authority UK abortions. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Abortion/Pages/Introduction.aspx