BRITAIN could face a wave of unwanted pregnancies amid a nationwide shortage of contraceptive pills, experts have warned.
Pharmacies are struggling to fulfil prescriptions for some of the leading brands, sparking alarm among female patients.
GPs say they have been forced to spend time sourcing alternatives, with patients booking multiple appointments to discuss options.
Some users have seen their usual supplies rationed or suffered side-effects after being moved to a different drug.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service warned this could lead to a rise in pregnancies if women stop taking the tablets.
Around 3.1million women in the UK take a contraceptive pill.
The shortages affect several types of contraceptives, including some combined and progestogen-only pills and long-acting jabs.
Firms blame problems at their manufacturing sites, with some shortages expected to last long in to next year.
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It comes after a shortage of hormone replacement therapies prompted menopausal women to import patches from abroad.
‘A MATTER OF URGENCY’
Katherine O’Brien, from Bpas, described the shortage as “concerning” and added: “It can take a long time for women to find the method that is right for them.
“Evidence shows that when contraception is more difficult to access, unplanned pregnancies can result.
“We advise all women to speak with their GP or healthcare professional to find a suitable alternative.”
Dr Anne Connolly, of the Primary Care Women’s Health Forum, said: “Extra work when trying to source alternatives is an issue, with a risk that a woman might be without her contraception for a while.”
Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, said: “Shortages of oral contraceptives have become significantly worse in recent months.
Evidence shows that when contraception is more difficult to access, unplanned pregnancies can result.
“This is very concerning for both GPs and patients.
“The shortages are already having a massive impact on our patients’ lives – as well as GP workload – and need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
Dr Connolly added: “There has been a lot of focus recently on HRT shortages but we are seeing shortages of contraceptives too.
“At this stage it is not clear how much of an issue this will become or when it may end.
“Contraceptive pills are a high risk product, in that there can be serious consequences for women if you cannot get hold of them.
“If you cannot get HRT it may be unpleasant but if women are unable to find a contraceptive that suits them it can result in unwanted pregnancies.”
The Department of Health said: “We are aware there are supply issues affecting a small number of oral contraceptive pills due to manufacturing delays and we are working closely with the affected suppliers to resolve these problems as quickly as possible.
“Supplies of several other oral contraceptives are freely available and patients affected should discuss alternative options with their clinician or pharmacist as soon as possible.”
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