`I'd hate to think of a teenager facing the red tape I did'

CAROL, a 33-year-old secretary from Scotland, had to resort to post-coital contraception after an accident with a condom.

Rather than risk an unwanted pregnancy, Carol and her long-term partner decided she should seek emergency contraception.

"Luckily I was aware that emergency contraception can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. As I was not working the day after the next, a Friday, I felt sure I would be able to pick up a prescription from Accident and Emergency."

It wasn't that easy. Her first call was the A&E department of her local hospital where she was told that, as it was not a bank holiday, no assistance could be provided and she should contact her GP. But there, she was told that there were no appointments available and she should try the family planning clinic. "The session had finished. Although the clinic was open for a full day on Monday, it was only open for a part of Friday."

Fortunately, the woman at the clinic was helpful and contacted the hospital, which still refused to help. The clinic then contacted Carol's GP and an appointment was secured for the end of evening surgery. It had been a six-hour trek.

Carol totally supports the move to make the morning-after pill, PC4, available from pharmacists: "The lack of assistance I received was disturbing; I would hate to think of a teenager facing the red tape I did."

IMOGEN was a single, 23-year-old medical student when she found herself in need of emergency contraception.

She had spent a drunken evening out, and ended up going to bed with one of her friends. "My first concern was unwanted pregnancy. Even though we may not have had penetrative sex, I couldn't take the risk."

At her local family planning clinic, she had to wait for two hours for an appointment with a nurse to register, then there was another wait before she could see the doctor. "The appointment with the doctor was very awkward, as I could understand everything she was writing down: UPI (unprotected sexual intercourse) with a CMP (casual male partner).

Imogen admits: "I was a little ashamed, but I resented the bullying tone of both the nurse and the doctor - surely they should have been glad that I wasn't going to risk an unwanted pregnancy."

Imogen believes that the pill shouldn't become available over the counter from pharmacists. "It is important that a girl see someone she can talk to. Perhaps a solution would be to allow nurses to prescribe PC4. The morning-after pill should be easily available, but girls should be well- informed before they take it."

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