The Contraceptive Pill Should Be Sold Freely Over the Counter: Period

The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Hysteria Collective as a whole.

Forking out £30 monthly for the contraceptive pill is not fair: here’s why.

When I was 16, I contacted the GP surgery to talk about and pick up my first contraceptive pill. It was not for the purpose of contraception, but due to my irregular periods and chronic pain that I needed to be subsided. I remember the uncomfortable questions revolving around whether I was sexually active, all whilst my mother was sat beside me, awkwardly staring at the floor, thumbs twiddling.

I was prescribed a year’s worth of Rigevidon, a form of the combined pill. This particular pill contains artificial versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which is produced in the ovaries. Pills such as these stop your ovaries from releasing an egg, whilst causing changes in the cervical mucus and the lining of the uterus, to prohibit sperm from joining the egg.

Rigevidon is often prescribed as the first type of oral contraception; however, I am yet to understand why. Within weeks, my body underwent significant changes, and not for the better. I was consumed by mood swings that were often on the lower side; my emotions were uncontrollable, and I would often chronically weep over the smallest of issues. My appetite increased considerably, and I subsequently gained a ridiculous amount of weight in a small space of time. My skin, which once was clear and had a youthful glow, became dry, dull and acne prone. Yes, puberty was still a factor, but the pill was also a huge catalyst for these changes.

I knew that I had to stop taking this pill, but I was terrified of returning to the local GP surgery to be interrogated as if I had done something wrong. So, I stopped taking the pill and the excruciating pain of my irregular periods began again.

In that moment, I first wondered why there wasn’t an easier method of accessing the contraceptive pill.

Presently, you can receive the contraceptive pill over the counter, or from drugstore pharmacies such as Superdrug or Boots. However, in doing this, you have a hefty added bill to your daily spendings.

According to the Superdrug Online Doctor site, the average prices to buy the contraceptive pill range between £19.00 and £29.50. Paying these prices monthly are not sustainable, nor are they fair. We do not choose to have our periods. If there was a way of taking them away without the danger of never being able to start my own family, I would. But I can’t.

According to research conducted by Public Health England, the research ‘Contraception: Economic Analysis of the Return on Investment (ROI) for publicly funded contraception in England’, conveys that “summing the local authority spending in England 6 and the NHS spending gives the total annual public spending on contraception: £246.1m.”

The ROI further suggests that there “is an £9.00 saving for every £1 invested in contraception provision in England.” What one could assume from this information that some outlets must charge for contraceptive pills to therefore make an adequate profit that can be put back into the public spending for contraception and sexual health in general. However, paying £30 in order to not have an unwanted pregnancy or to simply regulate our periods seems abhorrent. When we look at the average price of condoms (that can also be accessed freely at clinics,) they often range between £10-£15. On the rare occasion the prices are higher than this is when buying bundles that may include lubricants or other intimate toys.

Yes, the packs are smaller than your average 25-day pack of pills, but condoms are only being used when engaging in sex. They are not used as often as the contraceptive pill which has to be taken every single day (other than the 7 day break that produces period-like bleeding).

So, the question I ask is: why? Why do those who have periods have to cash out more on the contraceptive pill than when purchasing condoms?

The contraceptive pill should be free over the counter. People who experience periods should be able to access the pill with full comfortability without the worry of cost. Those who cannot access GP appointments for whatever reason and cannot afford contraceptive methods should not have to fear having an unwanted pregnancy. Abortions are pricey for the NHS; therefore, by supplying access to the contraceptive pill for free both through GPs and over the counter, it will be more cost effective. This would be a step forward for everyone in the UK.

I am now 21 years old. On Christmas Eve last year, I went to the GP surgery to get a new pill. I am 5’8″ in height and considered to be slightly curvier; this then became the focal point of the conversation. When addressing what pill would work better for me and my body type, the words from the nurse will stay with me…

“I would maybe consider laying of the chocolate and treats over Christmas, okay?”

From the age of 16, I have matured a lot. The conversations about sex and my sexual partners are not ones that make me uncomfortable; I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of. However, a conversation that specifically targets my weight (especially when I am healthy) does make me uncomfortable. It would make others uncomfortable too.

I understand BMI, weight and height have to be taken into consideration when choosing a pill. What I do not understand is why this particular conversation was acceptable and necessary. They are words that can be incredibly damaging to anyone’s self-esteem, no matter their size or weight.

If I was able to simply input my information into a form where I did not have to sit there and have to be sized up by a nurse, I would have found the experience a lot more enjoyable and accessible.

In a society that is meant to be progressive and one that is meant to kinder and fairer to women, trans, and non-binary people, this shouldn’t happen. The contraceptive pill has a place and need to be sold over the counter, freely.

Image courtesy of Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition.

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