In news many women will welcome, you can now order the pill online or over the counter.
Previously, if you wanted to access the contraceptive pill, you had to book an appointment with your GP or sexual health clinic, get a prescription and only then pick it up at the pharmacy.
Now, changes to regulations announced earlier this month by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) mean you don’t need a prescription to access the progesterone-only pill, Hana.
High street pharmacies Boots and Superdrug have both added Hana to their websites and over-the-counter pharmacy services.
It’s worth noting, however, that you will have to pay for this contraception – whereas if you access the contraceptive pill through a prescription it’s completely free.
A one month supply of Hana at Boots costs £9.95 or £21.95 for three months, and at Superdrug, it’s £8.95 for one month and £19.75 for three – and it’s also stocked at a range of other online pharmacies.
Before you order, whether online or over the counter, you will need to complete a checklist of questions about your health and lifestyle. The answers will be reviewed by a pharmacist to assess if you’re able to take the pill.
A second progesterone-only pill, Lovima, has also been approved by the MHRA to be sold without a prescription but it’s not on sale just yet.
You will still need a prescription for other types of contraceptive pill, such as the combined pill, which contains oestrogen.
Dr. Sara Kayat, health ambassador for Superdrug, said: “This expansion in access to contraception is extremely welcomed. Progesterone-only contraception is both safe and reliable, and making it over the counter allows for a more efficient process, improves convenience, and reduces the burden on other healthcare providers.”
“Making contraception more widely available is a significant opportunity to empower more women to take control of their own sexual and reproductive healthcare.”
What is the progesterone-only pill?
The traditional progestogen-only pill prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg, the NHS explains, and needs to be taken every day to work, with no break between pill packs, unlike the combined pill. The desogestrel progestogen-only pill can also stop ovulation.
It’s very important to take this kind of contraception at the same time each day. If you take it more than 3 hours late (traditional progestogen-only pill) – or 12 hours late (desogestrel pill) – it may not be effective.
Taken correctly, the progesterone-only pill is more than 99% effective, according to the NHS, but with “typical use” (how a lot of women take it in real life), it’s only about 91% effective.
When you start taking the pill, your periods may stop or become lighter, irregular or more frequent and side effects can include spotty skin and breast tenderness – but these should clear up within a few months.
Michael Henry, healthcare director at Superdrug praised the MHRA’s “landmark decision” as a “big step forward in removing some of the barriers that are faced when trying to obtain a contraceptive pill”.
“The pandemic has made it even harder to access essential contraception and so this decision should be celebrated,” he added. “It is important to note that there will still be a need to have a consultation with a healthcare professional so that the choice can be an informed one.”