Is the pill available over the counter?

Can you get the pill without a prescription?


What is the pill?

The pill is a popular form of contraception used to prevent pregnancy. There are two main types of the contraceptive pill: progesterone-only pills and combined oral contraceptives (COCs). Progesterone only pills contain only one type of hormone - progesterone. However, COCs contain synthetic forms of both oestrogen and progesterone. COCs are more commonly prescribed and can be used for period delay. However progesterone-only pills are more suitable for people who experience oestrogen-related side effects, migraines or people who are at higher risk of blood clots. 

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Can you buy the pill over the counter in the UK?

It is not possible to buy the pill over the counter in the UK - it must be obtained on prescription. This is because the wrong pill can be dangerous if you have certain underlying health conditions. However, you can get the pill from a number of different locations including your GP, online pharmacies such as Dr Felix, sexual health services and family planning clinics. Once you have been prescribed the pill, it is recommended that you have a pill check every 3 months. This involves taking your blood pressure, measuring your weight and height and screening for any underlying conditions that could make the pill unsafe for you.


Alternative treatments

People take the pill for a number of different reasons, including, contraception, alleviating painful periods and period delay. 

There are a wide range of different contraceptive options including:

  • Condoms
  • Diaphragms
  • Contraceptive injection
  • Contraceptive patches
  • NuvaRing - vaginal ring
  • IUD (intrauterine device)
  • IUS (intrauterine system)
  • Contraceptive implant.

Some of these contraceptives need to be inserted by a doctor and are more long-lasting than others. We recommend that you speak to your partner and your doctor about the different options available to you.

If you experience painful periods, the combined oral contraceptive pill is generally the best treatment option for you. If this is not suitable for you, there may be other options available which you can discuss with your doctor. In addition, you may find that pain relief, such as Ibuprofen can help to reduce period pain. Period pain is caused by prostaglandins, and Ibuprofen helps to block prostaglandins.

If you take the pill for period delay, there is another option available. Norethisterone (Utovlan) is a low dose hormonal pill that is not a contraceptive. It is suitable for short term period delay for a holiday or a special event. 

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