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Where can I buy the morning after pill?

Can you get the morning after pill over the counter?

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Contraception is widely available now and is free on the NHS but sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the moment and forget to use protection or for protection to fail us. Accidents happen and when it does it is good to know your options and how to go about the situation. The first thing I want to say is to try not to panic. The morning-after pill or other forms of emergency contraception is easily accessible; you just need to know how to go about getting it. 

The morning-after pill, as the name suggests, is designed to be taken after unprotected sex or when other contraception methods fail. Contraceptive methods have high efficacy, however, they are not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. 

 

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Types of the morning-after pill

When you think of the morning after pill there might be some common misconceptions that come to your mind, such as there is only 1 type of pill and it has to be taken immediately the morning after. This is not entirely true. 

Most people have only heard of the morning-after pill, but there are actually two types of emergency contraception available to help prevent pregnancy.

  • The morning after pill - EllaOne (Ulipristal acetate) or Levonelle (Levonorgestrel)
  • The emergency coil (IUD)

The morning-after pill (both EllaOne and Levonelle) are oral tablets that should be taken as soon as possible but they have different efficacy timeframes. EllaOne is effective up to 120 hours after unprotected sex and Levonelle’s efficacy lasts up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. But it is always best to take it as soon as possible as their efficacy does reduce as the hours go on. The morning-after pill works by preventing the fertilisation of the egg. 

The emergency coil is a small T-shaped copper device that is inserted into the uterus by a medical professional. It can be inserted up to 120 hours after unprotected sex but again should be done as soon as possible. The copper element makes the uterus a hostile environment for the sperm and prevents fertilisation of the egg. The IUD comes with an added benefit as it also acts as a long-term contraception method for up to 5 years with a 99% efficacy rate. So that leaves you worry-free for 5 years. 

When using the morning after pills in line with their recommendations, they are both very effective at preventing a pregnancy from occurring. Levonelle has been found to be 84% effective and EllaOne has a higher efficacy rate of 98%. One important thing to remember is that they do not work if you are already pregnant. 

If you believe you’re already pregnant, you should see your doctor as the morning-after pill will not and cannot stimulate a termination of pregnancy. Other treatments are available to terminate a pregnancy, however, these need to be discussed with your doctor. 

Where can I get it?

As time if of the essence when it comes to emergency contraception, knowing in advance where to get it is a good idea. In the UK, with the NHS offering free medical services, you can get the morning-after pill or the emergency coil for free at sexual health centres. However, as there is a high demand in these services, you might not be able to get an appointment in time. Alternatively, you can get EllaOne and Levonelle for a price from your local pharmacy. Unfortunately, if you are looking for the emergency coil, this is not available to get from the pharmacy as I need to be inserted in a medical setting by a trained nurse or doctor. 

You can get EllaOne and Levonelle for free from:

  • Contraception clinics
  • Brook Centres
  • Some pharmacies
  • Sexual health or genitourinary clinics
  • Walk-in centres or minor injury units
  • Some GP surgeries
  • Some A&E departments

You can get also get the morning after pill from: 

  • Dr Felix
  • Pharmacies 
  • Marie Stopes Clinics

Levonelle 

Levonelle costs about 25 pounds but prices will vary depending on the pharmacy. If you are under 16 years old, you will need to get a prescription for Levonelle. 

EllaOne

EllaOne is slightly more expensive at around 35 pounds but again this varies. However, if you are under 16 years old you do not need a prescription to obtain EllaOne from the pharmacy. 

Side effects 

When taking an emergency contraception pill, you might experience some nausea after but this does not happen to everybody. FDA investigations found that 14% of Levonorgestrel users and 12% of Ulipristal acetate users felt nauseous after taking the morning-after pill. 

There are other side effects associated with taking the emergency contraception pill. Side effects include:

  • Heavier periods
  • Pain in the lower part of the abdomen 
  • Fatigue 
  • Headache 
  • Dizziness 

These side effects usually vanish on its own after a couple of hours. If you experience nausea resulting in vomiting within 2 hours of taking Levonorgestrel, you should call your doctor immediately. 

For the IUD, there can be a cramping sensation (similar to period pains) felt after the insertion process. Usually in the first 3-6 months, you will notice your periods get slightly heavier and your period pains might increase in intensity. If you already suffer from painful periods or heavy periods this might not be the best idea for you. There are numerous other contraception methods available as well such as the pill or patch. If you are looking for contraception, is it a good idea to book a contraception appointment with your GP to discuss your options further. You want to make sure you get the best option possible for your body. 

Bottom line, you can get the morning-after pill from many places, either for free or for a price. It is always good to know in advance but if you ever find yourself in this situation, do not panic as there are options for you to take.

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