Whether you’re ready or not, Christmas is almost upon us. While you might be planning parties, Christmas shopping and New Year festivities, have you put your sexual health on your priority list?
Calls to the FPA and Brook helplines are often at their highest in January. More young people become pregnant in December and January than any other time of the year.
For many, Christmas and New Year is the party season. While you’re having a good time, don’t forget your sexual health. We know people are far less likely to use a condom when they’ve been drinking and they often regret what they got up to the night before.
Overdoing it with food and drink can make you sick – so if you’re on the pill check when you took it and look at our contraception advice below. If you’re at all worried that your cover will be affected, contact your local pharmacy or GP for advice.
YOUR CHRISTMAS CHECKLIST
What to think about, top tips, and info on where to get help, so you can enjoy a worry-free Christmas and New Year.
Travelling and visiting
Help! My clinic’s closed
Sexually transmitted infections
Sex and alcohol
Emergency contacts over Christmas and New Year
TRAVELLING AND VISITING
Perhaps you’ll be spending time away from home, or in a place where you don’t usually visit a clinic. Remember to pack your contraception. And take condoms with you just in case (even if you don’t need them – a friend might). Sexual health clinics and GPs will have reduced opening hours over the Christmas period too.
When it comes to contraception, it’s all about being prepared. Remember, services are likely to be closed or have reduced opening hours over the Christmas period.
During the holiday season you might change your daily routines or be away from home. If you use a method of contraception that you need to take every day, such as the contraceptive pill, make sure you have enough to last the whole time you’re away. And if you’re using the contraceptive injection, make sure it’s up to date. Why not add it to your Christmas check-list?
You might need extra help remembering to take your pill during the holiday period. Put a reminder on your phone or in your calendar, or leave a note for yourself by the front door. Perhaps you could ask your partner or a friend to remind you – or put a note in your Christmas calendar?
Top Tip If you’re using the combined pill (with estrogen and progestogen) you can miss one pill anywhere in the pack and you’re still protected against pregnancy. FPA has missed pill advice for the combined pill and missed pill advice for the progestogen-only pill.
Young people aged under 25 can get free and confidential information from Brook on everything to do with sexual health. The Ask Brook service is open over Christmas except for 25 and 26 December 2012 and 1 January 2013.
Find your nearest Brook clinic and when its open.
EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION (EC)
If you’ve had unprotected sex, emergency contraception can help protect you getting pregnant. You can get the emergency contraceptive pill (the morning-after pill) free from your GP, community contraceptive clinic, Brook or sexual health clinic (find out more at Help! My clinic’s closed). Some pharmacies also give out EC free.
There are two emergency contraceptive pills – Levonelle and ellaOne. Almost all pharmacies sell Levonelle over the counter and you can take it up to 72 hours after having sex. Some pharmacies have schemes where they provide emergency contraception free of charge, so it’s worth asking about that too.
ellaOne can be used up to five days after having sex. Not every pharmacy sells ellaOne and it may only be given on prescription from a doctor or nurse. Find out more about emergency contraception.
Remember the sooner you take EC the better!
HELP! MY CLINIC’S CLOSED
If you need emergency contraception and your GP or contraceptive clinic is closed you can still get it from the following places:
- Your high street pharmacist.
- NHS Minor Injuries Unit (many open 365 days a year, England only).
- NHS Walk-In Centre (many open 365 days a year, England only).
If you’re showing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and your local clinics are closed, your nearest NHS Walk-In Centre may be able to help you.
Top Tip If all local services are closed, as a last resort you can get emergency contraception (and emergency treatment for an STI if it’s really serious) from the A&E department at your local hospital.
Condoms are the only form of contraception that help protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You can get male and female condoms free from contraception and sexual health clinics and young people’s services, and some general practices and genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics. You can buy them from a pharmacy, by mail order or online as well as from vending machines, supermarkets, garages and other shops.
It’s a good idea to always carry condoms with you – and have some at home!
SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED INFECTIONS (STIS)
Sexual health clinics or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics are there for STI testing, treatment, advice and information. FPA can help you find your nearest clinic.
SEX AND ALCOHOL
Studies show people are more likely to ditch contraception if they’ve been drinking alcohol, and they’re much less likely to use a condom.
For useful tips on how to enjoy a safe night out, such as taking the pill early in case you’re sick, or where you might get hold of condoms, read FPA’s top tips leaflet (PDF).
EMERGENCY CONTACTS OVER THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD AND BANK HOLIDAYS
Open 24 hours including bank holidays
- NHS Direct 0845 46 47
- NHS Direct Scotland 0845 4 24 24 24
Ask Brook (for under 25s)
Ring the helpline for under 25s 0808 802 1234 open 11am – 3pm Monday to Friday (closed on 25 and 26 December 2012 and 1 January 2013). Text Ask Brook on 07717 989 023 (standard SMS rates apply)
FPA’s helpline is closed over the Christmas and New Year period. You can still use the Find a Clinic service to find your nearest contraception or STI clinic. Search online, text FPA to 81066 (texts charged at your standard rate) or use the free Find a Clinic iPhone app. Remember to call and check opening hours before visiting.