ultimate guide to contraception for sex workers

Ultimate guide to contraception for sex workers

How much do you know about contraception for sex workers?

From condoms to pills, there are plenty of picks which give you the power to control your reproductive health. But how do you know you’ve made the right decision for your body?

Today, we’re looking at everything sex workers should know about pregnancy prevention.

Scroll down to learn more.

What is contraception?

Let’s start from the top. Contraception is defined as the act of preventing pregnancy. This is usually via medication, a device, a procedure, or behaviour.

Contraception gives women the power to control their reproductive health and become an active participant in family planning. Simply put, they don’t have to be pregnant unless they don’t want to.

Why is contraception important?

Access to contraception reduces the need for unsafe abortions and unintended pregnancies, and it dramatically reduces HIV transmissions from mothers to babies. This is a net positive, as women can participate more fully in society (e.g. in the workforce or education).

Also, on an emotional level, women have the power to put themselves first. This empowerment is integral to well-being.

Contraception is critical for female sex workers, too. It allows them to work without the mental stress of pregnancy and the physical side effects of being pregnant or recovering from abortion.

Sex work and contraception

However, there’s still work to be done surrounding contraception and the adult industry. Some studies suggest that sex workers feel there’s a negative stigma surrounding contraceptive services. This leads to women not taking contraception and risking pregnancy.

Using contraception is critical, especially for sex workers who don’t always use condoms with clients. Relying on an internal method of contraception protects you against pregnancy when condoms aren’t present.

A quick note: While contraceptives protect you against pregnancy, they don’t protect against STIs. Condoms are the only method that does both. It’s strongly advised for you to use both.

Raising awareness is critical to ensure sex workers are educated and empowered on the topic of contraception. Luckily, accessing contraception is relatively easy in the UK. But more about that further on in the article.

an article on comprehensive contraceptive education and healthcare access for sex workers

The different types of contraception

Contraception comes in many different shapes and sizes. From hormonal contraceptives to barrier methods, it’s essential to know your options when finding the right match for you.

Here’s a quick list of non-permanent contraceptives:

  • Condoms
  • Caps or diaphragms
  • Combined pill
  • Injections
  • Implant
  • Patch
  • IUDs (coils or intrauterine device)
  • IUS (hormonal coils or intrauterine systems)
  • Progesterone-only pill
  • Vaginal ring
  • Natural family planning (fertility awareness)

There are also permanent methods of contraception. These are very reliable but aren’t easy to access.

  • Vasectomy (male sterilisation)
  • Female sterilisation

Can you trust natural family planning?

Natural family planning (fertility awareness) is a method of contraception that divides opinion.

Unlike contraceptive devices, this method involves tracking your fertility signals and menstrual cycle to work out when you’re fertile. You must be very careful and precise with this method, and even still, pregnancy can still happen. This is because fertility signals can be affected by stress, travel, and illness.

If you don’t have the time to track your basal temperature, cervical fluids, and other symptoms, this might not be the best method for you. Non-hormonal alternatives include the copper coil or condoms.

What’s emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is a type of contraceptive taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. This can also cover the pregnancy risk that comes from missing a pill or a condom split.

You can either opt for the “morning after” pill (ellaOne or Levonelle) or an intrauterine device (copper coil or IUD).

How to choose the right contraception for you

With so many contraceptive options, it can be challenging to know which is best for you. There are several factors to consider and questions to ask yourself to get started. Here’s where you can start:

  • Consider how important effectiveness is to you. Some methods are more robust than others. You can even double up on a device and condoms for extra protection
  • Are you organised? For the pill and the patch, you’ll need to take or reapply your contraception regularly. Forgetting it may lead to pregnancy
  • Would you prefer a long-term contraceptive? Some IUDs and coils last up to 10 years. An IUS lasts from 3 to 5 years, and implants are good for 3 years, too
  • Are you comfortable with inserting your contraceptive? Some methods (the vaginal ring, diaphragm, and female condom) must be inserted by you
  • Do you want to change your periods? You may experience lighter periods or heavy periods, depending on your choice

Explore the Contraceptive Choices infographic tool for a visual representation of pregnancy risk per method.

Smoking and contraception

If you smoke and are over 35 years of age, some types of contraception might not be suitable for you. This includes the vaginal ring and the combined pill. These types of contraception can slightly increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and thrombosis.

You should instead consider the IUD, IUS, injection, implant, or progesterone-only pill.

Non-hormonal contraception

We all react differently to hormones, and due to this, you might not want a hormonal contraceptive. Women recovering from breast cancer and other medical conditions should also avoid hormonal contraception.

Popular non-hormonal options include condoms, copper coil (IUD), and condoms.

an article on comprehensive contraceptive education and healthcare access for sex workers

Where can you get contraception in the UK?

You can access free contraception in the UK, even if you’re younger than 16. The NHS provides contraception via sexual health (GUM) clinics, contraception clinics, GP surgeries, pharmacies, and some young people’s services.

Contacting your nearest sexual health clinic is often the best way to access contraception. These clinics will also provide consultations and discuss the options with you. Perfect if you’re unsure which suits your lifestyle.

You can find your closest sexual health clinic via the NHS search tool.

The takeaway

Whatever your choice, we hope this information has empowered you to take contraception into your own hands. Remember, contraception is your choice. You shouldn’t be forced into any options. When in doubt, discuss your worries with a healthcare professional.

Also, it’s critical to note that contraception (apart from condoms) doesn’t protect you from STIs. If you have multiple partners, you still need to use condoms and undergo frequent testing to keep you safe.

Put yourself first and learn more about health and wellness for sex workers here.

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