Did you know that 14th February is not just Valentine’s Day, but “Thinking About Sex Day”?!
Thinking About Sex Day was initiated by the Sexual Advice Association to encourage everyone to think about the physical and psychological issues surrounding sexual activity. The idea is that encouraging people to think about sex is the first step towards ensuring the public’s sexual health and wellbeing.
Gateway’s Pregnancy Outreach Workers often have to find interesting ways of tackling issues surrounding sexual health. Although it’s vital to make sure that clients are armed with the right information, it can be difficult to know the best way of approaching such a sensitive topic. So how do they do it?
All of our POWs are trained as C Card Scheme workers. The training means that, under this national scheme, POWs can give out free condoms to young people aged 13-24, together with the most appropriate advice.
We find that being able to give out free condoms is actually a useful communications tool. It makes it a bit easier to broach the subject of sex, as Sharon, one of our POWs, explains: “When I see a client for the first time, I put together a little pack that includes – amongst a lot of other things – condoms and contraceptive advice leaflets. Being able to give them this right at the start makes it a lot easier to revisit the topic once we’ve got to know each other a bit better.”
As the POW and client builds up a relationship, the client will often open up about more personal issues. The conversations can cover anything – not just about contraception and STDs, but also around the more emotional, psychological aspects of sex and relationships.
The advice is usually very practical. “If someone has moved on from one partner to another, that’s a good time to talk about contraceptive choices,” says Sharon. “The training we get is really useful because there is a lot more choice than there used to be – implants, for example – so we are able to give women the most up-to-date information.”
The support is practical, too. In many cases, that means making appointments on behalf of clients, or accompanying them to visit a clinic or their GP.
The birth is a good opportunity to tackle the myths around contraception. Many women believe that if they have just given birth, or as long as they’re breastfeeding, they’re less likely to get pregnant. In fact, the opposite is true – so POWs try and ensure that their clients are aware of the facts.
Similarly, there are often misunderstandings around the use of the pill. “A lot of the women I meet say that they were on the pill when they became pregnant,” says Sharon, “so I make sure to talk to them about using it correctly. Are they taking it every single day? Do they know that the pill may not work if they have been ill? Being sick and taking antibiotics can both affect the way the pill works.”
A lot of the work around sexual health involves signposting women to other services. Agencies and organisations like BRASH (Birmingham Relationship and Sexual Health Service) offer specialised advice and support, particularly for young people. Midwives, too, offer some very down-to-earth, practical advice for new mums. So POWs work closely with services across the city to make sure their clients are able to access all the information and support that they need.