Our Sexual Health and Relationships Editor, Claire O'Brien argues that students should be more informed about the morning after pill before we go to college, as it would eliminate some challenges surrounding the form of emergency contraception.
Our first plan of birth control doesn’t always work. Condoms are the most common form of contraception used by 18-24 year olds.
They are also only 98% effective when used correctly. At some point in our lives we may fall into that unfortunate 2%, and when we do, having an accessible back up plan can make all the difference.
The morning after pill is a safe and effective way of preventing pregnancy after having unprotected sex.
Usually, we avail of this service because our chosen method of birth control has failed.
It is important to note that this pill is not the same as the abortion pill.
The morning after pill can only delay ovulation and prevent fertilisation up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. The abortion pill can terminate a fertilised zygote after its attachment to the uterine wall.
Historically, Ireland has not been noted for its sexually liberal ideas or the accessibility of contraception. The attitude towards the morning after pill is no exception to this. Emergency contraception was not licensed for sale in Ireland until 2001.
As well as this, a prescription was required to purchase the morning after pill. This required a trip to a GP or family planning clinic potentially adding the cost of a GP visit to the price of the pill.
This continued until 2011, when the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) allowed one of two available brands of emergency contraception to be sold over the counter. While this was certainly a positive move and broke down barriers for some women, obstacles remain.
Inaccurate information as well as hostile or uncomfortable environments in pharmacies mean that emergency contraception is not as accessible as one may have hoped.
Not to mention of course, the price. While most of us live in fairly close proximity to pharmacies. Your local pharmacy may be costly or may place the customer in an awkward situation.
Condoms are quite easily accessible for most. Students’ Unions and family planning clinics around the country will often provide them free of charge.
Students will literally be handed condoms on Fresher’s or SHAG (sexual health and guidance.) week. But while the morning after pill and condoms have very similar functions. Purchasing the two is a starkly different experience.
Buying condoms is a matter of placing them on the counter sheepishly and avoiding eye contact with the cashier. After that, you’re done, you’re all set.
The morning after pill means whispering the words over the counter as if one is wishing to join some sort of underground secret society. After that, you’re taken into a ‘consultation room’.
It is usually the size of closet and feels very much like an interrogation. Although the purpose behind the consultation room is to comfortably discuss the pill, this may not be very comfortable for some people.
Discussing your amorous activities with a complete stranger at half nine in the morning is never fun.
Pharmacists don’t tell you how to operate a condom. They don’t tell you to squeeze the tip and make sure it’s not inside out and to make sure to change it if you’ve already ejaculated. That’d be pretty awkward, wouldn’t it?
Saying this, it’s not my intention to demonise pharmacists. I understand that they have a duty to provide us with information about the medication we’re about to take.
However, I also believe that if we were more informed about the morning after pill before we got to college, it would eliminate some challenges surrounding the emergency contraception.
Emergency contraception can be bought in advance and stored away for a rainy day. As long as it is consumed before the expiry date, you can store the morning after pill in your handbag or bedside locker.
This can save you a frantic and painfully awkward pharmacy trip when you are least in the mood for it. In 2012, the student health centre at Shippensburg University, Pennsylvania began providing the morning after pill via a vending machine, eliminating the painful pharmacy exchange.
This practice is perfectly legal as every student in the university is over the age of 17.
While contraception vending machines may be a long way off for Ireland yet, would emergency contraception be too out of place in a college fresher’s pack?