Two types of contraceptive pills will soon be available over the counter

For the first time in UK history, women will soon be allowed to purchase two types of mini-pills without the need for a prescription.

Two types of progestogen-only pills, Lovima and Hana, will soon be available for purchase over the counter in pharmacies across the UK after being reclassified by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Mini pills to be available for OTC purchase

This marks the first time in the UK women will be able to purchase any type of birth control pills without a prescription. However, those wanting to acquire the POP pill will still have to consult with the pharmacist.

The MHRA has recently reclassified desogestrel as safe for most women to take and will still be obtainable for free through doctors, commissioned services and sexual health clinics.

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), revealed that the move is a huge win for women who struggle to access basic healthcare:

Even before the pandemic, too many women and girls were struggling to access basic women's health services. The consequences of this include an increase in the number of unplanned pregnancies, which can result in poorer outcomes for women and their babies.

He continued:’Enabling women and girls to access POP more easily and conveniently will give them more control over their reproductive health, which can only be a good thing.’

On the other hand, combined BC pills that contain both oestrogen and progesterone will still require a prescription.

What are progesterone-only pills?

Progesterone-only pills, also known as POP pills or mini-pills, are oral contraceptives that work without oestrogen.

Mini-pills prevent pregnancy by causing the cervical mucus to thicken. This stops the sperm from travelling into the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilise the egg. Some types of mini pills also work by preventing ovulation altogether.

When taken correctly, mini-pills can be up to 99% effective, meaning fewer than one in 100 people taking the medication will become pregnant over a year. However, due to the reality of human nature, the efficacy of progesterone-only pills fall more around 91%. Lovima and Hana - the two brands to be available OTC - should be taken around the same time every day with no breaks in between packs. If more than 12 hours late taking the pill, the birth control effects may fail.

Progesterone-only pills are most beneficial for those who cannot take oestrogen, have a history of blood clots, suffer from migraines, or are breastfeeding. These types of birth control pills also come with a lower probability of side effects. Still, many who opt for POP pills may find themselves with irregular periods and an increased risk of ovarian cysts.

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