Sunday, 5 June 2016

Emergency Contraception And The Stigma That Needs To End

I'm all for sex - and I'm all for being careful and making sure that you're safe; both from illness and from any unwanted consequences. That being said; sometimes things happen, and things go wrong and you need something that will help stop those unwanted consequences - and that's where emergency contraception (or the morning after pill, that you can take up to 5 days after sex to help prevent pregnancy) comes in. I remember being fifteen and talking to friends who were having to shell out over £20 for emergency contraception to avoid teenage pregnancy, and when I saw this Huffington Post article on the issues surround emergency contraception, I realised that it's something that is less talked about, but it needs to be.

I've taken emergency contraception; I was nineteen and in a full time job, I made a mistake in a long term sexual relationship and I wasn't ready to risk pregnancy; so, figuring out that I could get it free from a pharmacy not far from where I worked, I popped over in my break. This was honestly one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. I went to a girl's school, I am pretty open about my sex life, and I went in knowing that I was making a good decision - the decision not to risk my future by putting something on the line that I wasn't, and indeed still am not, ready for - but this left me feeling ashamed. I went to a pharmacy offering free emergency contraception thinking that they would be more open, more understanding; yet I was sorely mistaken.

When I asked over the counter for the morning after pill she hushed me, pointedly lowering her voice and looking around other customers, then ushered me into a side room to wait for a pharmacist. When the pharmacist came in I had to answer all manner of questions. Although I'm aware and grateful I was answering to ensure I was getting the best, and correct, care - I felt humiliated, like despite the important aspect of this part of the process, I was still asked by a pharmacist who was clearly uncomfortable, who quite clearly thought this was something to be embarrassed about. After checking it was okay to take and reading through the side effects, I was passed Levonelle and a cup of water - threw it back and went back to work with my cheeks burning.

It was humiliating. Not the fact that I had to go and get the pill - that was a smart move on my behalf; it was a move to make sure that when I chose pregnancy it was the best situation for me. The attitude towards my getting the contraception was what was humiliating - I was left feeling as though I was a child who should have known better, as though it was something that I should have done cloak and dagger in the dark of night as opposed to on my break from work at 11am. Choosing to take the morning after pill is a good, strong decision for many girls - and we shouldn't be putting them off making the same choice again in the future should they need to.

All in all - free emergency contraception is not enough; we need to break down the stigma that comes from some health professionals around the subject. We all talk about contraception, but it's important to note that sometimes some people will need the morning after pill - and it's okay to get it for free, and it's nothing to be ashamed about. It's a stigma that needs to end, because it's important to remind girls and women that they have this shame free option when it comes to contraception.

Have you ever used the morning after pill? What was your experience?

Sammy xo.

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