Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
In the last two weeks we have received over 200 calls with questions and concerns from people about their contraception and sexual health needs.
As we deliver a reduced service during this unprecedented time of COVID-19 we want you to know we are still here for you.
We have compiled a list of FAQs - if you've got a question about contraception and sexual health take a look at the questions below, you may find the answer you are looking for.
If you're concerned that you are having a first outbreak of genital herpes please telephone us on 0300 123 5474 for a telephone consultation with one of our nurses.
Following this we may arrange to see you for a face to face consultation.
If you've previously been diagnosed with genital herpes and are having a recurrence please call to speak to one of our nurses so that we can arrange some treatment for you.
If you are feeling sore the following may help relieve your symptoms:
- wearing loose clothing
- gently bathing the area with a warm salt water solution (1 teaspoon of salt to half a litre of water)
- if urinating is painful, pass urine in a warm bath or shower or pour a jug of warm water over the affected area as you urinate
- if you are able to take ibuprofen then this can help, alternatively you can try paracetamol
If you are pregnant and are concerned that you're having a first outbreak of genital herpes or have had genital herpes in the past and would like some advice please ring to speak to one of our nurses or doctors.
If you're worried that you have new genital warts you should probably wait until after the COVID-19 crisis is over to come in and be seen.
Genital warts are not harmful and are primarily treated for cosmetic reasons.
Unfortunately, we aren't able to offer freezing treatment (cryotherapy) currently due to COVID-19.
If you have previously been diagnosed with warts and are currently using a course of either topical podophyllotoxin or imiquimod then please call the telephone number below to speak to a nurse or doctor.
If you're concerned and would like to speak to a member of our team please call 0300 123 5474.
Most GP surgeries and sexual health services are following Government guidance and minimising face-to-face appointments in order to protect you and our / their staff .
If your smear test is due and is ‘routine’ (that is, you’ve not had any recent abnormal tests and you are on ‘routine recall’ for testing) then you will probably be offered a test in 6 months’ time.
If you are due an early repeat (you were advised after your last smear to have a repeat at 6-12 months) then your smear may be delayed by up to 3 months.
Most GP surgeries and sexual health services will not have their appointment systems set up for that far ahead and so you should make a note of when your smear is now due and contact them at that time.
The GP surgery should also be placing a reminder on your notes, but it is very important that you follow this up yourself too.
You should NEVER wait for your smear appointment before reporting symptoms to your nurse or doctor, not even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's important to speak to someone as soon as possible if you have symptoms such as:
- bleeding in between periods
- bleeding during or after sex
- bleeding in the menopause (more than 12 months after your last period)
- changes to your vaginal discharge
If you think you may have been at risk of a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) it's a good idea to take an STI test - this of often recommended just to rule it out. You can order an STI test kit here.
It's very important to arrange a consultation with your GP surgery even during COVID-19 pandemic. During this consultation you will be asked more details about your symptoms and medical history. A face-to-face consultation will be arranged if necessary and if safe to do so.
It's still really important to take your pill as prescribed and to keep up your contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
Even if you're not able to see your partner at the moment, due to the ‘lockdown’, we don’t know when the restrictions will be lifted, so it's best to be prepared and continue with your normal routine.
Many GP surgereis and sexual health services are seeing urgent cases only, however staff are still working hard behind the scenes and providing telephone consultations and some offering video consultations too.
If you normally get your contraceptive pill from your GP:
Your contraceptive pill prescription can be reviewed upon request from your GP surgery as normal and your prescription will be sent electronically to your chosen Pharmacy or you may be invited to make an appointment for a telephone consultation if the Doctor or practice nurse would like to speak to you.
If you are on a progestogen-only method you will just be asked to update your medical history and how you are getting on with it (bleeding patterns, side-effects etc).
If you are on a combined pill/patch/ring: It would be really helpful if you could have a recent weight measurement ready to share with your doctor or nurse as they will want to obtain this information.
Some people have a blood pressure monitor at home and a home reading would be really helpful. Don't worry if you don't have one it isn't usually a problem, unless there is a concern.
When your prescription is ready, if you are self-isolating, you will need to ask a friend or extended family member to collect it from the Pharmacy for you (not anyone who lives with you if they are also self-isolating).
If someone is collecting your meds for you ask them to text you when nearby –they should leave your medications outside your door safely - you will need to retrieve it straight away.. Try and wear gloves to pick up the packet and open it up with gloves on. Use a clean hand to take the pill packets out of the paper bag and discard the paper bag with your gloved hand. Always wash your hands for 20 seconds afterwards.
You will usually get a 6 month’s supply of pills. If you are running combined pill packets together you will run out slightly before the 6 month stage.
Remember, whatever pill you are on, please order in good time.
If you normally get your contraceptive pill from our clinics:
If you access our services we will have electronic records with your history and details, so it may be that following a telephone consultation we can provide a repeat supply of pills either for collection or in the post. We are currently assessing all needs and identifying ways we can help our patients accesses their contraception.
As before, we will need to ask you some questions about your health since your last visit to clinic and we may want to record your weight, and if you have it your blood pressure. Please call 0300 123 5474 to talk to us.
Your Depo injection is licensed for contraception for 12 weeks and 5 days, but for some time we have known that it provides cover for contraception for up to 14 weeks since your last injection.
It's unlikely during the COVID-19 pandemic that you'll be able to access a repeat Depo injection.
This is incredibly frustrating for you, but the guidance has been put in place primarily to protect you from contracting the Coronavirus.
It remains very important that you continue some form of contraception if you are having sex. Even if your partner lives in another household and you aren’t having contact at the moment - e don’t know when the ‘lockdown’ will end.
Please don’t think that because you have not had a period, that you can’t get pregnant. You can ovulate at any time after the injection runs out and if you’ve had sex around that time you can become pregnant even though you haven’t had a recent period.
You can book a telephone consultation either with your practice nurse at your GP Surgery or with one of our sexual health nurses (0300 123 5474). We will talk you through your options. The easiest way will probably be for you to start a progestogen-only pill for now-until services are back to normal. Find out a bit more here.
We’ll need to know if you are on any other medication so have a list handy for your telephone consultation please.
Your options for testing for an STI can differ on whether you feel you are experiencing any symptoms or not.
You can read about the different STIs and possible symptoms here.
If you think you have an STI or know you've had sex with someone who has an STI,it's best you call us for a telephone consultation on 0300 1235474. Our clinical team can ask you some questions and assess your risk. They will also ask you some questions about your sexual history and about the symptoms you are experiencing. From this telephone consultation our staff will advise you what is best . They may suggest you come into clinic for testing and an examination (and sometimes on occasion they may provide medication).
Alternatively, you may be signposted to request a free online STI postal test kit. These kits have all testing equipment inside, plus instructions and a freepost envelope for you to return the sample.
Of course this means you leaving your home to post the sample back, so if you are self isolating or unwell at present we DO NOT advise this.
If you don’t feel testing is urgent and you are NOT experiencing symptoms at present we suggest you wait to be tested when our normal services resume. This will help alleviate the added pressure on laboratory services at present.
Please telephone us on 0300 123 5474 for a telephone consultation.
We will discuss your symptoms with you and take a medical and sexual history, this information will help our clinical team assess the nest approach. We may arrange to see you in clinic for a face-to-face consultation and examination or we may sign post you to free postal STI testing kit you can have sent to your home. The kits have everything you need inside - plus step by step instructions and a freepost envelope for your sample).
Please telephone us on 0300 123 5474 for a telephone consultation. We will discuss with you the treatment you need, how to access this and how your partner(s) can access screening and treatment. Some of our medication is available via pick up arrangement or in some cases using a postal service. Every case is different so it is important we speak to you and assess what is right for you.
If you've had your contraceptive implant in for 3 years, it would normally be changed straight away, but guidance has changed currently. The guidance during this time of crisis (COVID-19) says we should leave the implant in place as you could be at risk of contracting the virus if you attend an appointment to have it removed/replaced.
If you're worried about getting pregnant, ask your GP or practice nurse to prescribe you some additional contraception to cover you . This would usually be a progestogen-only pill, as this is a very similar hormone to what is in the implant. You could also use condoms as an add-on if your implant is running into a 4th year.
If your implant has been in for 4 years or more you should DEFINITELY use an additional method of contraception eg condoms (every time you have sex) or a progestogen-only pill.
When services return to normal you can have your implant changed as usual.
If you require more advice call us on 0300 123 5474 and have a chat with one of our clinical team.
If you have a Copper IUD (coil) it will most probably be a 10 year device. There is limited evidence that this contraceptive may last up to 12 years - you may wish to use condoms as well to make sure you don’t have an unplanned pregnancy.
Unless you have noticed signs of infection (eg smelly or discoloured vaginal discharge, pelvic pain or abnormal bleeding) or you are complaining of side-effects, there is no worry about leaving your coil in for longer. Just contact your GP surgery or sexual health service when the COVID-19 pandemic is over to have your device removed/replaced.
If your Copper IUD is a 5 year device and you were under 40 years of age when you had it fitted, you should definitely either use condoms or arrange a telephone consultation or e-consultation to request some additional contraception eg the progestogen-only pill.
It's likely that the hormone contained in the Mirena /Levosert lasts longer than the licensed 5 years.
Guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic says that if your Mirena or Levosert is less than one year over due, you can leave it in place and do not necessarily need extra contraception. If you are concerned about pregnancy nevertheless, you can ask for a telephone consultation to arrange for some additional progesterone-only pills.
If your Mirena/Levosert is over one year out of date - you should definitely use additional contraception as you may not be covered. Our service can provide condoms for free and in many cases these can be posted out to you discreetly. Call us on 0300 123 5474.
If your GP surgery usually provides your contraception and coil fitting, you may be able to request an online consultation to obtain some progestogen-only pills, or you may need a telephone consultation. They may be happy for you to receive a prescription as they can see what medications you are prescribed. Give your surgery a call or email them if lines are busy.
If our service usually see you, or if you having problems speaking to your GP surgery you can register for a telephone consultation with our team on 0300 123 5474. Following a telephone assessment we may be able to arrange a supply of progestogen-only pills to cover you until you can have your IUS changed.
If you were 45 years old or older when you had your current Mirena or Levosert fitted you can leave this in place and it will cover you for contraception until you no longer need contraception after your menopause (aged 55 years at the latest).
If your Mirena is also there as part of your HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) then you will need to speak to your GP to arrange some progesterone tablets to protect your womb-lining.
Our service does not prescribe HRT or the provision of Mirena coils for non-contraceptive purposes, so you should consult you GP or practice nurse for this.
If you are accessing PrEP via the IMPACT trial at Sexual Health Wirral or are self-sourcing please telephone us on 0300 123 5474 to arrange a telephone consultation. It's best if you do this when you have at least 2 weeks of PrEP or more left to take. Following your telephone assessment we may arrange to see you in clinic or organise a postal HIV testing for you depending on your needs.
Social distancing rules during the COVID-19 crisis may mean that you are not at risk of acquiring HIV currently and you can therefore stop PrEP during this period or switch to Event Based Dosing.
Some useful resources you may wish to access:
FAQs about PrEP during Covid-19 lockdown and how to stop and start
Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director of the Terence Higgins Trust and Consultant in Genitourinary Medicine talking about the ‘Don’t Hook Up Campaign’
The HIV service has primarily moved to telephone consultation and is in the process of actively contacting patients. Face-to-face consultations will only take place for patients with complex needs. Medications are being delivered by Homecare or by Hospital Transport.
If you wish to speak to the Wirral HIV specialist team please call 0151 604 7175 (office hours only)
Some useful resources you may wish to access:
We are only seeing patients for face-to-face consultation if absolutely necessary. The clinic is set up so that social distancing rules can be respected. Our waiting rooms are limiting attendees at any one time and seating has been re-arranged.
If when we speak to you we feel it is necessary for you to attend clinic you will be asked COVID-19 screening questions first over the phone to ensure it is safe for you to come in.
It may be that the nurse or doctor needs to come within 2m of you to examine you or to take bloods. Clinical staff will be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) when they see you.
The Coronavirus is a new virus and little is known about its effect on pregnancy at this time.
Women who are currently pregnant are being advised that they are in the ‘vulnerable’ group and should self-isolate. This is because in any pregnancy, the way the body handles viral infections can change and the woman’s immune system alters so that she doesn’t reject her baby. This is why pregnant women are offered a flu vaccination every winter even if they don’t usually have one. So women are being advised to isolate as a precaution.
As little is known about Coronavirus and pregnancy it is probably better to delay becoming pregnant until the crisis is over. When pregnant, women attend appointments with midwives and doctors and every contact has a potential for contracting the virus at the moment.
There is much uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last and there is significant impact on routine services at this time. If you had complications in your pregnancy (for example gestational diabetes or high blood pressure) it may be more difficult for you to access the care you might need.
Even getting your LARC method removed is difficult at the moment as services try and reduce the risk of you getting the Coronavirus.
Now would be a good time to prepare your body and mind for a pregnancy in the future. Think about regular exercise-indoors and outside (as part of your daily exercise allowance), healthy eating and nutritional intake -eating plenty of vegetables, reducing processed foods, lower salt and saturated fats and sugars, cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, relaxation techniques (mindfulness and breathing exercises). These will all come in very handy if you succeed later in becoming pregnant.
Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or background.
We know that during this current time of lockdown incidences in abuse may be heightened.
It's important to know that household isolation instructions, as a result of COVID-19 do not apply to someone who is leaving their house to escape abuse.
If you are worried about someone there is advice available:
Local support - It's never ok
If you, or someone you know is in immediate danger call 999.
Child sexual exploitation is when people use the power they have over children and young people to sexually abuse them.
Their power may result from a difference in age, gender, intellect, strength, money or other resources.
People often think of child sexual exploitation in terms of serious organised crime, but it also covers abuse in relationships and may involve informal exchanges of sex for something a child wants or needs, such as accommodation, gifts, cigarettes or attention.
Some children/young people are 'groomed' through 'boyfriends' who then force the child or young person into having sex with friends or associates.
Sexual abuse covers penetrative sexual acts, sexual touching, masturbation and the misuse of sexual images, such as on the internet or by mobile phone.
Part of the challenge of tackling child sexual exploitation is that the children and young people involved may not understand that non-consensual sex (sex they haven't agreed to) or forced sex (including oral sex) is rape.
Spotting the signs
The signs of child sexual exploitation may be hard to spot, particularly if a child/young person is being threatened.
To make sure that children/young people are protected, it’s worth being aware of the signs that might suggest a child/young person is being sexually exploited.
Signs of child sexual exploitation include the child or young person:
- going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late despite lockdown guidelines
- appearing with unexplained gifts or possessions that can’t be accounted for
- having mood swings and changes in temperament
- using drugs and/or alcohol
- displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour, such as over-familiarity with strangers, dressing in a sexualised manner or sending sexualised images by mobile phone (sexting)
- showing signs of unexplained physical harm, such as bruising and cigarette burns
Help and support
What to do if you are concerned about someone else.
If you have concerns about someone else because they might be being neglected, not looking after themselves, or suffering abuse or exploitation you should talk to someone. You can contact Children’s Services Central Advice and Duty Team on 0151 606 2008 (open 9.00am - 5.00pm). Outside of these hours please phone the Emergency Duty Team on 0151 677 6557.
If you think someone is being harmed right now call the police on 999.
You’ll find more information and advice about child sexual abuse at NSPCC.
It can be difficult to know what to do if you are being harmed by someone or you are worried about someone else.
There are adults who can help, so it’s important to tell someone you trust so they can take steps to protect you or the person you are worried about.
If you're worried you are at risk you can call the Central Advice and Duty Team for help on 0151 606 2008.
Alternatively, you can call Child Line for confidential advice on 0800 1111 or take a look at the advice online from the NSPCC.
This is absolutely fine. Our staff will use a translation service to help your friend discuss their concerns over the telephone.
How it works
We will dial into a language service and have a private 3 way conversation with your friend, our clinician and the interpreter. The interpreter will not be provided with any patient details and will purely support the telephone consultation.
We suggest you or your friend calls our service to book a teleassement call back, letting us know what language is required - 0300 123 5474.
Every area is likely to be offering reduced services and we are all working to national guidance on who can be seen in clinic (*urgent criteria applies), whilst making sure we meet our own local needs. If you live outside of Wirral, but are self-isolating with family / friends in Wirral and you need support please contact us and we will do our best to help you.
If you live outside of Wirral, please contact your local service provider for contraception and sexual health advice and support as local provision will be available.
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