Morning-after pill ‘should be sold off the shelf’

Women and girls should be able to get hold of emergency contraception more easily without the need for a consultation with a pharmacist, say women's health experts.

A report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends the morning-after pill "should be sold straight off the shelf", like condoms.

There are too many barriers to health services for women in the UK, it says.

And their needs should be a priority.

The report, Better for Women, is also calling for women to be allowed to take the first abortion pill at home, as well as the second, if they know they are less than 10 weeks pregnant.

It said women should be able to have a consultation for an early medical abortion over the phone or via Skype.

The report also recommends a network of one-stop health clinics for women, offering smear tests, contraceptives and advice all in one place.

At the moment, women and girls have to have a consultation with a pharmacist before they can be given an emergency contraceptive, or morning-after pill – taken within five days of unprotected sex.

This can leave them feeling "uncomfortable, embarrassed or judged", the report says.

It recommends that the morning-after pill should be available "in front of the counter" and off the shelf, alongside pregnancy tests and condoms.

'I felt patronised trying to get emergency contraception'

Jane, 25, from the West Midlands, was turned away by the first pharmacy she visited to get the morning-after pill because they had no appointments that day.

After protesting, she eventually saw a pharmacist and was given the emergency contraceptive – but only after lots of questioning.

She said she felt as if she'd done something wrong.

"I felt really judged and patronised. I'm pretty sure he said something like, 'That was silly'," Jane says.

"After that I just felt angry that women are made to go through this when there is a really simple solution."

Emergency contraception is available free of charge without prescription from all pharmacies in Scotland and Wales.

In England, contraception services are commissioned locally and are on offer in sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries and most pharmacies – but are not always free of charge.

The College says cuts to public health budgets have made it more difficult for women to access the services they need – figures obtained by the BBC last year suggest nearly half of councils in England had plans to reduce contraception services.

This may have led to rising conception rates and abortions among older women, because of unplanned pregnancies, the report says.

In 2018, more than 205,000 abortions were performed in England and Wales.

The report also calls for the progestogen-only contraceptive pill, taken once a day, to be available over the counter in pharmacies instead of with a prescription from a GP.

It says girls and women should be able to order the pills online like any other pharmacy product.

Prof Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the progestogen-only contraceptive pill (Pop) was very safe, and a consultation with a GP before starting to take it was "unnecessary".

The report also recommends:

  • long-term contraception should be discussed straight after a woman gives birth
  • improved access to abortions for all women
  • one-stop women's health clinics should be set up and open at weekends and eveningsRead More – Source