Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, said:
“It is vitally important that discussions comparing the risks of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine with those of the contraceptive pill do not pave the way to a repeat of the 1995 “Pill Scare” which led to a significant increase in unplanned pregnancies. Nothing is risk free but these are both safe medical technologies, and the risks and benefits of both need to be evaluated within an individual context.
Combined hormonal contraceptives (CHC) are overall very safe for most women to take - the very small increased risk of venous thrombosis (VTE) with use of the combined pill is far lower than the risk for VTE during or after pregnancy. As part of the contraceptive counselling process, women should be informed of the risks associated with all methods of contraception, as would be expected with any prescription medication, but these risks must be kept in perspective. A review of the risks of the combined pill by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority, the MHRA, in 2014 confirmed that the benefits of any combined hormonal contraceptive far outweigh the risk of serious side effects.
Rightly reassuring the public about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine must not come at the expense of trust in the most commonly used contraceptive method in the UK. We advise that any woman who is concerned about their current method of contraception seeks advice from their GP before discontinuing. An unplanned pregnancy presents a greater risk of VTE than the use of the combined hormonal contraception. Any woman who has a pregnancy she knows she does not want to continue should be able to access abortion care as swiftly as possible.”
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BPAS is a charity that sees almost 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception, at clinics across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice.
BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here.
BPAS intends to launch a not-for-profit fertility service in 2021, to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We intend to only charge what it costs to provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service to patients who may be unable to access NHS-funded care.