Summer is here, and with it the holidaying and party season. When you're away from home and socialising more than usual, the risk of having a contraception or protection fail can go up. Family Planning's national nurse advisor Rose Stewart shares her tips for staying safe between the sheets this summer.
Nobody wants to worry about STIs and accidental pregnancy over the holiday period. We want you to spend your summer holiday relaxing with your friends and family, not catching something or facing a crisis. So we've got six tips for the holiday season that will help keep you safe.
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1. Sort your contraception before the holiday period
If you take the pill, make sure you have enough pills to last over your Christmas and New Year holiday, especially if you're heading out of town. Get your repeat now!
If you think you might run out, make an appointment with us to get some more before you go – you may be able to have a phone consultation with a nurse and do it all over the phone. We'll send the prescription straight to your chosen pharmacy.
If you’re using Depo Provera (the jab), make sure you'll be back home before your next injection is due, or talk to us about getting another one before you go.
Whatever contraception you use, make sure you're organised, you have enough to last, and you don't forget it when you're packing. You could:
- Put it on your list of things to pack
- Set a reminder on your phone
- Write it in your diary
- Ask your partner or a friend to remind you
- If you have an IUD or an implant, lucky you – you can miss this step!
2. Stock up on condoms
Take condoms with you on holiday. Condoms are the only form of contraception which also protect against STIs. Condoms are useful to have with you in case you have sex with someone new, or if your regular type of contraception fails or runs out.
You can get a prescription for condoms from any Family Planning clinic. It costs just $5.00 for a whole heap of condoms.
- Use condoms from a trusted brand, not novelty condoms.
- Check the expiry date. Condoms are made from latex and will weaken over time.
- Store them somewhere cool, not in the glovebox of your car or in your wallet. It is ok to put them in your wallet before you head out, just don’t store them in there.
- Use water-based lube not oils, suntan lotion or Vaseline as they weaken condoms and cause them to break.
- Use a new condom every time you have sex. If you realise you've put it on the wrong way, throw it out.
Internal or female condoms are an option too.
3. Use the Emergency Contraceptive Pill if you need to!
If you've had unprotected sex or your usual method of contraception has failed, you have two options for emergency contraception:
The Emergency Contraception Pill (ECP)
The ECP can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex – but the sooner the better.
You can get the ECP free from any Family Planning clinic; you'll just need to pay for your appointment if you're 22 or over.
We always say it’s best to use a regular and reliable form of contraception, but we know that accidents can happen. You can be prepared by getting a couple of ECP in advance, in case of an emergency.
Family Planning can give you a prescription for up to two ECP for you to keep at home or take away with you on holiday – just in case.
If you use the ECP, you should follow up with a pregnancy test three weeks later.
Whatever happens, you can still buy the ECP directly from most pharmacies, but it will be more expensive (usually between $35 and $50).
A copper IUD
Another emergency contraception option is a copper IUD which can be fitted up to five days after unprotected sex – and it gets extra points because once it's in place, your contraception is sorted for the next five to ten years!
An IUD needs to be fitted by a trained doctor or nurse, so your best bet is making an appointment at Family Planning.
Remember that the ECP and the copper IUD won’t protect you against STIs, so you might need to follow up with an STI test two weeks later.
4. Know where to go for help
If you have unprotected sex or your contraception fails over Christmas and the local clinics and pharmacies are closed, knowing where to get emergency contraception could make all the difference.
- Family Planning clinics
- After-hours pharmacies
- Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for information about services near where you are over the holidays.
Some of our clinics might have reduced opening hours and dates over the Christmas and New Year period. These hours are on the clinic pages.
5. If you need us, call us!
If you need any of the following:
- A pill repeat (if arranged at last visit)
- Contraception advice
- Your pre-IUD or implant insertion appointment
You could have your appointment with a nurse over the phone! It’s exactly like a normal appointment but you can do it whenever and wherever suits. You could have your appointment lying in bed, cooking your dinner, walking your dog, sunbathing at the beach…If you need a prescription, we'll send it to the pharmacy you choose for you to collect.
Phone appointments cost the same as a regular appointment – free for under 22s, $5.00 with a Community Services Card, and $32.00 without one.
6. Make getting your contraception sorted your New Year's resolution
There are lots of contraception options out there and many are free or cost just $5.00 from Family Planning clinics. We think options like the implant or the IUD are especially good – they’re more than 99% effective and will last for five to ten years.
While you’ve got some time over the holidays, check out the range of contraception available through our clinics and make an appointment for the New Year so you can start 2019 with your contraception sorted.
Family Planning's national nurse advisor Rose Stewart is a guest writer for The Spinoff.