Screw being shy: Everything you need to know about the morning after pill

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A fifth of women have used the morning after pill at some point, but stigma around it means most are embarrassed and clueless when it comes to the morning after. Well, we say, screw being shy; our experts are here to explain the ins and outs of the little pill with the big rep…

For most young women, the trip to Boots to sheepishly ask for the morning after pill is highly embarrassing and frankly a bit scary.

One in five women between the ages of 18 and 49 have reportedly used the form of emergency contraception, a 2009 Office for National Statistics survey found.

Despite this, there’s still stigma attached to popping the infamous plan B pill, and in turn, a whole lot of confusion about how and when to get it.

Jason Warriner, clinical director of Marie Stopes UK, says: “We know that women’s use of emergency contraception is low in this country, and that’s reflected in the numbers of unwanted pregnancies that occur each year.

“When women come to us… they give us two reasons for not using emergency contraception: not being able to get hold of it in time and not realising they’d been at risk of pregnancy.”

Katherine O’Brien, from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, adds:

“Stigma around the morning after pill causes women unnecessary distress, and acts as a barrier to accessing this important method of contraception. The ECP is viewed as a marker of failure, when in fact it is quite the opposite.”

Ultimately, lots of girls risk going through pregnancies they don’t want, all in the name of morning after embarrassment and confusion. We think this is shit, so let’s get talking. Here are the things you need to know about the morning after pill…

Morning after 101

As Dr Warriner explains, the ECP can be used to prevent unwanted pregnancies after a load of different scenarios:

“No method of contraception is 100% effective, and emergency contraception is a valuable back-up in emergency situations when a regular contraceptive method has not been used consistently or has failed – if a woman has forgotten to take her contraceptive pill, or when a condom breaks for example.”

The ECP pill aims to stop pregnancy by preventing or delaying your body from releasing an egg, so that if any of your guy’s, erm, swimmers (?) have made their way in to your fallopian tubes, no fertilisation will take place. No fertilisation, no baby.

The ‘ellaOne’ morning after pill is effective when taken up to five days after unprotected sex. Dr Warriner has praised it for giving women more time to prevent their unwanted pregnancies, describing it as a “brilliant step forward.”

He said: “It widens the choices around emergency contraception for women. For example at bank holiday weekends when other main services could be closed.”

How to get it

Now, this bit is quite confusing.

As Katherine from BPAS explains:

“While women can obtain the ECP for free from their GP, local sexual health centre or family planning clinic, it’s not always possible for them to get an appointment or attend a walk-in centre, as waiting times can be long.

“Many women are forced to go and buy the pill from a pharmacy – although it should be noted that some pharmacies are able to provide some women emergency contraception free of charge, especially for younger women, although that depends on where you live. Frustratingly, it’s a bit of a postcode lottery.

“Some pharmacists refuse to provide the ECP on ethical grounds – which can be particularly problematic for women in rural areas or without transportation.”

If you’re unsure, visit your GP and they’ll be able to give you advice.

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What’s the diff between the two leading ECP brands? And which is best for you?

Levonelle -Effective for up to three days after unprotected sex

-Everyone can use it, says the World Health Organisation

-Use a condom for two days after taking it (progesterone only pill users) or seven days (users of any other kind of contraception.)

-Begin using regular contraception within 12 hours of taking this ECP

ellaOne -Effective for up to five days after unprotected sex.

-The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare warn that ellaOne should not be used by women who:

-may already be pregnant

-are allergic to any of the drug’s components

-have severe asthma that’s not controlled by steroids

-have hereditary problems with lactose metabolism

-Use a condom for nine days after taking this ECP if you’re on the progesterone only pill, and 14 days for users of all other contraceptives.

-Begin using regular contraception within 12 hours of taking ellaOne