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Pharmacists can remove EHC stigma, says charity

More than a third of women are embarrassed to ask for the morning-after pill, with this stigma felt most keenly by 16 to 24-year-olds, a YouGov survey commissioned by the Family Planning Association shows

Pharmacists have a "real opportunity" to remove the stigma associated with asking for emergency contraception, a sexual health charity has said.

More than one in three women were embarrassed to ask for emergency contraception, according to an online YouGov survey last month of 2,509 women aged 16 to 54. This stigma was most keenly felt among 16 to 24-year-olds, with more than half admitting to feeling embarrassed, said charity the Family Planning Association (FPA), which commissioned the survey.

Convenient locations and opening hours meant pharmacies were often the preferred source of emergency contraception, but not all pharmacists felt confident talking to women about the treatments available, said FPA director of health and wellbeing Natika Halil.

The FPA has developed a pack to help pharmacists advise female customers about emergency contraception options, in response to poll results which showed that only 16 per cent of respondents in schools or colleges thought health professionals provided enough advice on the different methods available.

The free packs - which include a poster, tips for engaging with customers and links to guidance - would help pharmacists deal with "more difficult questions" about contraception and provide the "best possible service" to women, Ms Halil said. 

The packs have been produced to coincide with Sexual Health Week, which runs from September 15 to 21. The FPA had chosen the theme of emergency contraception for the campaign this year because of the "number of myths, half-truths and misconceptions" discouraging women from getting contraceptive help when they needed it, the charity added.

The packs can be ordered from the FPA's website before August 31.

Last month, the MHRA reassured the public that emergency contraceptives were suitable for all women, regardless of their weight. The announcement followed a review by the European Medicines Agency which "could not conclude" that the effectiveness of morning-after pills containing levonorgestrel (Levonelle) and ulipristal acetate (ellaOne) were affected by body weight.

Should pharmacists be responsible for helping to remove the stigma of asking for emergency contraceptives? 

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