How much is the morning after pill and why are we still paying for it?

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Feb 29, 2024 at 09:29 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

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I’ve always considered this series to be a safe space. When you enter the Explained By a Blonde-sphere, you inadvertently sign a legally binding contract that allows me to make incessant Gossip Girl references, keep you up to date on when my next root touch-up is, and, of course, overshare. This week, I’m dipping into the personal archives to talk about a topic very close to my heart: the morning after pill, also known as Plan B, and more specifically, why those of us with ovaries should not have to pay for it.

@seasonedbf

£37 for the morning after pill is RIDICULOUS #seasonedsessions #seasoned #podcast #health #pregnant #abortion #nhs #uk #uktiktok

♬ original sound - Seasoned

When I was in a situation where I needed to take the morning after pill, I was 16, still living at home, and my mum took care of everything. It was relatively uneventful—except for the four-hour period where I was convinced I’d become a teen mum. However, since then, I’ve witnessed dozens of friends shell out top dollar and often endure incredibly uncomfortable and inherently sexist conversations simply to gain access to one little pill.

As a small disclaimer, I will be using the terms morning after pill and Plan B interchangeably. In the UK, the former is the more commonly used term, whereas the latter is most popular in the US. Both are used to prevent fertilisation. Plan B One-Step is the brand name of a very well-known emergency contraception in the US.

According to the NHS, levonorgestrel, the hormonal medication found in all of these brands, works in the sense that it stops or delays the release of an egg, aka, ovulation. You should take the morning after pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Some pills will still work even if you take them after three to four days, however, the sooner the better. For example, if you mistakenly take the morning after pill seven days after unprotected sex, it will likely not work.

One in five British women between 18 and 35 take the morning after pill each year. However, despite this, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding emergency contraception. According to Refinery29, recent research on nearly 1,000 18-35-year-old women by the morning after pill brand ellaOne found that 57 per cent feel awkward and embarrassed when making the purchase, while just 10 per cent feel confident.

@millie

Reply to @angelashaw07 I could keep doing these 😂 #pharmacy #morningafterpill #awkward

♬ original sound - Millie Ford

How much is a morning after pill?

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has held numerous campaigns over the years to try and make the morning after pill more accessible and less expensive. Despite the pill having been deemed completely safe to use by the NHS, customers still have to speak to a pharmacist over the counter when they want to access it. In contrast, in other countries such as France and the US, you can simply find the pill in one of the medical aisles.

Moreover, in the UK, the morning after pill—while available for free through a doctor’s prescription or at select sexual health clinics—can cost up to £30. Prices of some generic brands can vary from £10 to £15.

Boots, one of the UK’s most popular health and beauty retailers and pharmacy chains, recently became embroiled in this ongoing debate after campaigners, MPs, and healthcare officials called for the company to lower the price of its emergency contraception. This then prompted the pharmacy to shave £5.99 off of the price, giving the public the new generic £10 pill. In comparison, Levonelle One Step and ellaOne, which are the other emergency contraceptive pills sold at Boots, retail for £26.49 and £33.25 respectively.

While this progress is good, it’s simply not good enough. I personally still take real umbrage with the fact that we have to pay for the morning after pill at all. The cost of living crisis has been disproportionately impacting anyone with an ovary, particularly minorities, and it’s time people took a stand against this outdated scam.

But instead of completely wallowing and falling into a sad spiral, I’m going to spend my time breaking down some of the most important things anyone planning on partaking in sex should know about emergency contraception.

Morning after pill and Plan B side effects

The main thing a lot of people want to know about emergency contraception is whether or not it’s going to come with a truckload of nasty side effects. Of course, everyone is different, and everyone reacts differently to medication. However, according to Mayo Clinic, there are certain standard side effects that individuals should be made aware of.

Nausea and vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, breast tenderness, cramping, and heavier menstruation bleeding are all potential side effects of the morning after pill or Plan B.

https://twitter.com/SuchANymph/status/1548379712858206209

Light vaginal bleeding can be a common side effect, however, if it persists, you should definitely contact your doctor.

How long do Plan B side effects last?

Another common query is how long will these side effects last? I get it, if you take the pill on Tuesday, you want to make sure that you’re going to be well enough to make that oat latte friend on the weekend. So, to clarify, any major symptoms should pass within 24 hours of you taking the Plan B pill. On days two and three, you might experience some breast tenderness and headaches. Then hopefully by day four, you should be feeling almost back to normal.

I would expect, however, some irregular bleeding and or a missed period within the next few weeks.

Some people fear that, once taken, the morning after pill will continue to permanently stay in their system. I can promise you hun that this will not happen. The longest that the medication will stay in your body is five days.

What happens if you take the morning after pill if you are already pregnant?

Plan B is not effective after pregnancy has occurred and therefore will not have any negative impact on the foetus or pregnant person. In fact, it’s a worry-free zone, because accidentally taking the morning after pill mid-pregnancy or indeed taking it too late will most definitely not impact the baby’s development.

There are also no signs that taking emergency contraception will then impact an individual’s fertility or ability to become pregnant.

Accessing the morning after pill should not only be guilt-free, it should also be free-free. It’s 2024 people, we need to do better.

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