I paid £40 for the pill: Why is it so hard for students to access the contraception they need?

University doctors aren’t helping


Despite years of school lessons about safe sex at school, at university I've found that it can be a lot more complicated than the condom-on-cucumber demonstrations let on. Sex is as much about pleasure as it is about safety, and I've found that at uni, away from your home GP, it can be really difficult to access certain methods of contraception – or basically anything that's not a condom.

At home I relied on drop in services for my contraception. Despite the fact that it was a bit of a ball-ache going every three months, it was free and reliable. However, when I ran out of my supply in Edinburgh, and had no plans to go home, this option wasn't available to me.

After trying to join the uni GP, which was full to the brim, I went and asked the pharmacy, which refused to give me an emergency supply. Instead they gave me a number to ring up to join another GP near my student accommodation, which turned out to have an eight week waiting list. As a last resort, I rang the sexual health clinic, which refuses to give the pill (my preferred form of contraception) to people over the age of 18, and told me that my only option was to buy them from Superdrug online.

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No room at the inn 🙁

The pill I was originally prescribed was the most expensive one at £40 – a large price to pay for contraception, but a small price to pay to avoid the crippling side effects another pill may give me.

It's easy to say that I should have joined the GP straight away, or gone to more pharmacies, but it should be easier than that. Women should not have to go to extreme lengths like this to have contraception – for whatever reason.

After talking to some others, it's clear that accessing all kinds of contraception throughout the UK can often prove difficult for students.

Robyn, Leeds

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They don’t do the morning after pill at my student medical practice, so the lady there directed me to the sexual health clinic – who told me I’d have to go in and wait approximately four hours for an appointment. So I ended up having to go to a pharmacy and pay £22 for it, which the boy involved then refused to pay half of.

Monica, Kent

I honestly think it would be easier to get the morning after pill than the contraceptive pill sometimes at uni. There’s a lot of support at my uni for emergency contraception, which is amazing , however getting the contraceptive pill is a bit of a nightmare. If you can’t make the sit and wait clinic, you don’t get it. Holidays are also a pain because you’re registered at your university medical centre so your local GP can’t offer you a repeat prescription – so if you don’t have enough to get through summer you’re kind of stuck.

Grace, Cardiff

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At my uni you can’t get the pill from the GP so I have to go to these drop ins on a Wednesday morning and just hope they have time to see me – but most of the time they don’t, so I just get six month's worth when I go home.

Amber, Edinburgh

I was diagnosed with chronic migraine four years ago, which means most pills don't work for me at all. So I went through a long period of being a bit of a guinea pig for different types, which all tended to have negative effects on my mental health or make my migraines a lot worse. When I finally found the injection and that it didn't cause horrible side effects at last, it was great. However, if you have migraines with auras (which I don't), the injection sometimes is a bad idea. So there was a time recently where a new nurse saw "chronic migraine" flash up and outright refused to give me it and tried to convince me to go back to my old medications, even though I was due a new injection that day and have been having them for three years. I had to basically beg for her to get it approved by a doctor. In the end she had to give me it because I have in fact never had an aura.

It seems as if some universities and cities make it easy to get some forms of contraception, like the morning after pill, whilst at others it can be a nightmare to get what you need. Plus, as a student you tend to never be in the same place for a long time, complicating relations with a GP. All in all, it really fucking sucks that there's not one reliable place to access contraception from if other services aren't an option. Girls are clearly struggling – and having to go to great lengths to protect yourself really shouldn't be necessary.