#MyMorningAfter: Breaking the Stigma of Emergency Contraception

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Using emergency contraception is not an uncommon experience for women, yet in today’s society it is still a heavily stigmatised topic. Women feel embarrassed, ashamed and uncomfortable asking for emergency contraception, even when it is a responsible decision to make and not something to be shamed for.

Of nearly 1000 women at Bestival, Leeds and Rise festival, ellaOne found that in the past year 46% of these women had had unprotected sex, yet only 27% took emergency contraception. 31% of those who took the pill said they felt awkward about it and 26% said they felt embarrassed.

In fact, only 1 in 10 women reported feeling confident about taking the morning after pill.

1 in 8 women said that when purchasing the pill, they travelled to another town to avoid seeing someone they recognised. EllaOne’s new campaign #MyMorningAfter serves to start a conversation and reduce the shame women feel when getting emergency contraception.

My personal experience of emergency contraception was embarrassing. I felt ashamed that I was in a situation where emergency contraception was required. I felt irresponsible and immature, despite the fact that my very decision to follow this up with emergency contraception was the opposite. Regardless of what happened the night before, preventing an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy was the right decision, and yet I didn’t feel comfortable sharing this with anyone. In fact, it wasn’t until weeks later when confided in a friend about it.

When I went to get the pill, I walked out of my way to find a pharmacy further away from my halls, avoiding all the ones close to me in an effort to avoid seeing anyone I knew. I still felt embarrassed inside the pharmacy, with no customers in it, telling the lady at the till that I needed emergency contraception. Sitting in a small room with a male pharmacist telling him that I needed the pill was uncomfortable. He asked me specifically why I needed it, broken condom or lack of one? As though this would make a difference in him supplying me the pill. He then continued asking intimate details about my life, my last period, what it was like, if I’ve ever needed it before. It was awkward and felt slightly unnecessary as he didn’t aim to educate me.

Having never learnt about emergency contraception in school I had to do my research online. As I got the pill over 24 hours after the incident, I was anxious about whether it would work, and the anxiety lasted until my next period finally arrived. Never before had I felt so grateful for that time of the month. I was unsure of the effects it would have on me, both short-term and long-term, but didn’t feel comfortable asking.

Even now this is not an experience I write about with confidence knowing other people are going to read it, and I question why I feel so embarrassed and judged about something that so many women have been through.

Whether you need emergency contraception for a split condom, a condom that fell off, you forgot to take your contraceptive pill, or you simply neglected to use a condom. Whether you were in a relationship with the person or it was a one-night stand, you should never have to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to make the responsible decision to go and get emergency contraception. As women, we should be supporting each other in these situations and reducing the stigma about emergency contraception. If you’ve had an experience with emergency contraception, open up to someone, start the conversation and help reduce this stigma.

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