Family planning clinics are provided by the NHS, as well as by charitable organisations, to offer advice on conception and contraception. Most clinics will offer both proactive contraception, such as condoms and the birth control pill, as well as retrospective contraception, such as the ‘morning after’ pill and abortion advice.
Family planning clinics are staffed by qualified doctors and nurses, who can assess the best contraceptive solution for your personal circumstances. Often the staff includes counsellors who can discuss the emotional aspects of your treatment, from advising couples who are planning a family, to helping young people to deal with the complex issues surrounding sexual activity.
In the UK, family planning clinics are free, as are any contraceptives that they may prescribe for you. The service is discreet and confidential and is available to anyone, male or female, regardless of age but how do you go about finding a family planning clinic, what should you be looking for when choosing a family planning clinic and what family planning clinic services are available for young people?
This article on finding a family planning clinic is written by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
Finding a family planning clinic
Family planning clinics in the UK are coordinated by the Family Planning Association (FPA). You can find a full list of all NHS family planning clinics on their website at www.fpa.org.uk, or you can call them direct on 0845 310 1334 (in Scotland call 0141 576 5088). You can also find your nearest family planning clinic by calling NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 (NHS 24 in Scotland 0845 4 24 24 24).
You can ask your GP to make a referral, or contact your local clinic directly for an appointment. Some clinics also offer a walk-in service with no appointment necessary, but this varies from clinic to clinic, so it is always advisable to check in advance.
Family planning clinics offer a great deal more than just giving out free contraception. They also provide expert advice on the best form of birth control for you, from the fifteen or more methods currently available, as well as pre-conception advice for couples trying for a family and free pregnancy tests.
Some family planning clinics offer an even wider range of services and advice, including rape and abuse counselling, vasectomy counselling, abortion counselling and menopause clinics. If you need specialist services of this kind, the FPA will be able to advise you on the nearest appropriate clinic.
Clinics for young people
For young people, finding a family planning clinic may not be as straightforward as this, as they may not feel comfortable asking their GP, and may not want to run the risk of being seen by a friend or relative at an NHS family planning clinic.
Confidential family planning clinics specifically for young people have been created to get over this problem. The most well-known of these are the Brook Centres. These family planning clinics are also free, but they are exclusively for under 25s and they have strict confidentiality rules. Brook family planning clinics will not tell a client’s parents, or even their family doctor, without permission, even if they are under 16. They will, however, advise clients to discuss their situation with their parents if they feel that they are able to.
To find the nearest Brook family planning clinic, look online at www.brook.org.uk or call the Brook Helpline on 0808 802 1234.
Planning a family
While for many people, family planning clinics are simply a source of contraception and advice, for others, family planning means just that – planning a family. Family planning clinics can offer a wide range of practical advice to help you decide on the number of children you want, when you want to have them and the timing of each child, coordinating this advice with the appropriate contraception methods to ensure fertility at the desired time and prevent it at others.
Different family planning clinics will offer different levels of such services, depending on the demand within their local area. When you are looking for a family planning clinic, it is worth asking whether their focus is on families, or whether they mainly assist with contraception.
In some religions, such as Catholicism, barrier methods of contraception or hormonal treatments are forbidden. While most family planning clinics will respect such beliefs and offer advice on alternative methods, this will be offered in a general setting that also provides advice and methods you do not agree with. If this is a problem for you, then you may need to search a little harder to find a family planning clinic that sits with your beliefs. Your church or religious leaders may be able to advise you on where to find an appropriate family planning clinic.
Choosing a clinic
There are many factors to consider in choosing the right kind of family planning clinic for you. But, above all, the family planning clinic you choose should be one you feel comfortable with and which is convenient for you, with a location and opening hours that fit your schedule. Family planning is a vital part of life planning – make sure you stay in control of your choices by opting for the right contraception when and for however long you need it.