What happens when you visit a sexual health clinic?

posted by: Ella

Worried about visiting a sexual health clinic? Our guest blogger Ella talks about what to expect, what her experiences were and why you shouldn’t worry.

Sexual health clinics are often seen as pretty embarrassing places, let’s be honest, there’s nothing that inviting about walking into a room of people (some that you may potentially know) and having to sit there waiting to be seen. You can’t deny that you sit and think, ‘I wonder what they’re here for?’, and you know they’re potentially thinking the same thing about you.

But why is that seen as such an embarrassing thing?

Over the past couple of years, I started to think about how sexual health was such a taboo subject, and it made me realise that the stigma around talking about sexual issues and topics could be potentially dangerous for some. If young people aren’t openly talking about their sexual health, how would they know if something was going wrong?

Personally, I think a lot of this stigma stems from how sex education was taught in schools. Looking back, I realise there were so many topics that weren’t even touched on. Teachers would feel awkward openly talking about sex, and for some kids, as soon as the topic was mentioned the whole thing would turn into a joke. And if young people aren’t being taught what they need in school, then how would they know what to search for and ask about in later life?

Luckily, sexual health clinics are places where you can find out all you need to know about your body, your sexual health, sex in general, relationships, etc. even if you don’t know what it is you need to know in the first place.

When I first started on any kind of contraception I visited my GP instead of a clinic. The lady that saw me every time I visited was really friendly and made me feel really comfortable, but the downside to visiting the doctor was waiting for the appointment. Especially when it concerned contraception… having to remember that it would probably take a couple of weeks to be seen, then having to work out whether I had that many pills to last me that long. I then decided the health clinic would be a much easier option. Sexual Health clinics have drop-in hours, so no appointment was needed, and with two drop-in days a week, options were much more open. And for things that I knew I would want to be seen for in weeks to come, appointments were available.

Visiting the clinic for the first time was strange, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, and I think my main worry was being judged for being young. But when I got there, and it was my turn to be seen I realised I had nothing to worry about. The nurses were just as friendly as my doctor had been and I didn’t feel judged at all.

Going back to what I said at the beginning, about potentially seeing people you know in the waiting area and being worried that they’re going to be wondering why you’re there. You’re all in the same boat, you’re all there for something, and the likelihood that you’re being ‘judged’ is very small. To be honest, they can think what they want, but as soon as they get into that room with the nurse and start talking about their own situation they’ll probably forget all about anyone else they’ve seen outside.

If you are worried or scared or embarrassed or just want someone to keep you company, ask a friend to go with you- this can make your visit, especially your first, a lot easier.

I asked some of my friends about their experiences.

‘The first time I went to the clinic I was a little worried, but I was made to feel welcome and that I could talk openly about my personal issues.’

‘I needed a pregnancy test and I was so scared, but they put me at ease, next time I have the same situation I’ll definitely go back.’

‘The first time I went I felt I was going to be judged about my sexual activity, but they were really understanding and made me feel comfortable.’

‘I made an appointment to get an IUD and I thought it was going to be super awkward talking about my sex life and the pill and discussing the IUD, but it was actually completely fine and non-judgemental and normal.’

‘The lady I saw was really friendly and she gave me really good advice.’

 

Blogged by:

Guest Blogger Ella. Having just moved back from Bristol to Devon after graduating with a degree in media and journalism, Ella has a keen interest in writing about sexual health and hopes to help educate young people with her experiences.

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Accessing our service during the COVID pandemic

How to access our service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with symptoms of coronavirus is available at nhs.uk/coronavirus .

Advice from our service:

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception during this pandemic here.

We are currently prioritising these groups for coil and implant (LARC) fits:

  • Those with vulnerabilities including but not limited to those who are: <18, attending abortion and maternity services, homeless, sex workers, victims of sexual assault, people with language barriers, drug and alcohol problems, learning disability, serious mental illness
  • Those aged <30 years

More details on LARC fittings at our service are found here

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Information is now also available to advise on sexual contact during a time of social distancing here.

Alternative provision:

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info