Contraception disasters: staying safe and savvy

Jessy Alhuwalia 15 February 2015

The first time it happened, I had only been seeing the guy for a month or so. As we walked into town at 7 45 on a Saturday morning, so we could be at Boots when it opened at 8, I couldn’t help thinking “why me? What were the chances?”. We had used a condom, but fallen foul of the 99% effectiveness ratio and it had split. 

A quick google at 1 am had reassured me of a few misconceptions: firstly I didn’t have to find my local sexual health clinic – because although people always use that phrase I had no clue where or really what that was; secondly I didn’t have to wait until a GP could see me, making it really worrying if we’d meet the 72 hour limit; and thirdly, that it was free.

We walked into Boots and my boyfriend awkwardly patted my shoulder. I had always logically felt that there was no shame in sex, contraception, or any of it going wrong, and I definitely wasn’t willing to take my chances, but I had been dreading this. Walking up to the pharmacy counter, I practiced the medical name for the pill in my head so I would get less embarrassed, but my mumbled attempt led to a loud clarification that I wanted “emergency contraception? Do you need the free kind? Ok we’ll need to check some things with you” and being led away to the “Private Consultation” room.

I was asked pretty standard things like if I was on any medication, how many hours it had been since the unprotected sex (a term I actually objected to at the time – it was theoretically protected, I had just been cruelly betrayed by durex), and boring normal things they ask you when giving you any medication. I swallowed the pill then and there, and re-joined my boyfriend, awkwardly lingering between the family planning aisle and the baby clothes upstairs in the pharmacy. I laughed at his positioning, and by the time we had walked back to college, we were joking about it.

The thing I really took away from the whole experience is that even people who consider themselves pretty well sex educated don’t know a lot about emergency contraception. As I spoke to some friends about it I realised that it hasn’t only been me – lots of people had no idea how easy and painless (metaphorically and literally) the whole process of getting that little pill was.

It happened once more, when I was changing contraception methods and we had to use condoms for a week. I declared us the unluckiest couple alive and, much less panicked, walked pretty jovially into town when I got up in the morning. The real bummer then was, upon arriving at the pharmacy on a Sunday morning I was told there had been a “rush” on the morning after pill and they were all out of the free kind. Not willing to lessen the effectiveness, I shelled out 27 quid for piece of mind. That would be my one and only ‘tip’ for this article – on weekends, go early to beat the queue, because even though it feels like this has never happened to anyone else, you’re definitely not the only one.