It’s a typical storybook plotline. A woman has unprotected sex with a guy, who the following morning just ups and leaves with no goodbye, a few weeks later she takes a pregnancy test which inevitably comes up positive and 9 months later – BAM! She’s a single mum and the book goes on to tell you all about her average life as an average single mother of one until the man of her dreams comes along and ‘rescues’ her from average motherhood.
That’s usually how it goes and fair enough – it’s a book and it needs to be exciting and full of plot twists and drama before the happily ever after. But in real life, that happily ever after doesn’t always happen quite as you hoped and it can be scary when you’re pregnant and alone.
Let’s go back a bit in the story though. What if you’ve had unprotected sex and you’re scared that you’re pregnant but you really don’t want a child or to go through pregnancy? That’s where the morning after pill comes in.
The morning after pill is a form of emergency contraception which you need to take after having unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy. There are different time scales depending on which pill you take. Levonelle works up to three days after sex and ellaOne works up to five days after sex but the sooner you take it, the better and more effective it will be.
Most can take the morning after pill. Even if you’re underage/under 16 (for the UK specifically.) There are some circumstances where you can’t such as if you can’t take hormonal contraception or if you have allergies. Before taking the pill, it’s a good idea to consult your GP or nurse if you’re unsure if it’s safe for you.
However, the morning after pill doesn’t need to be prescribed by a doctor or nurse. You can get it from your GP too but if you feel uncomfortable talking about it or if you can’t get a last minute appointment, then it’s available from many other places. You can get it from the chemists or a family planning clinic if you have a local one. It’s also available from some drop in centres or minor injury units. It’s likely that you’ll get asked a few health questions beforehand just to check that it will be safe, effective and the right option for you.
While it can be embarrassing or scary going to get the morning after pill, it doesn’t have to be. Everyone makes mistakes and it can be very easy for regular contraception to fail or for something to go a bit wrong when you least expect it. You shouldn’t be ashamed of it because you aren’t the only person who has had to use emergency contraception. You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. You never know, there might even be someone else in the same situation as you at the same time as you in the same chemist or clinic. You aren’t alone and unprotected sex isn’t the end of the world.
But as always, make sure you’re safe so that you don’t have to use the morning after pill. Mistakes happen, as I’ve said, but the morning after pill is not meant to be used on a regular basis in the place of usual contraception. So make sure you’re using condoms or the pill or the coil, whatever your preferred method is.
To find out more about the morning after pill and other emergency contraception, here are some useful websites: