“Each time there was more emphasis on explaining the side effects of the pill and that if I threw up then I must take another one – there was never a focus on the timing of my last period.”
The morning-after pill is an emergency contraception that is readily available over the counter at the pharmacy without a prescription. It’s something I’ve used many times as my plan B since I was 16 years old and sexually active.
I was 25 years old and had the ‘didn’t-pull-out-fast-enough’ moment with my then-boyfriend, which was fine because I worked five minutes from a chemist. I would be taking it about six hours from the time it happened.
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For only $30 I’ve taken the morning-after pill like a Tic Tac whenever there was even a minuscule chance I would get pregnant during my off-stages of being on the contraceptive pill; when sexual partners have done the pull-out method, the condom didn’t seem completely on, they’ve cum on or near my vagina, or even when they’ve jacked off and then fingered me (out of my own paranoia that the semen were still alive on their fingers and ready to swim right up into me).
To me, the morning-after pill was a dependable safety net. Going into the chemist that day was the same as it always had been previously: “Here is a questionnaire for you to fill out. When was your last period and are you on any medication? How many hours ago did you have sex? If you vomit in the next 24 to 48 hours the pill is ineffective and you will need to do it again.”
Each time there was more emphasis on explaining the side effects of the pill and that if I threw up then I must take another one – there was never a focus on the timing of my last period. Fast forward to three weeks later and my period was 10 days late and I was sitting in the doctor’s room staring at the cheesy health posters that hung on her walls.
“We will need to do a pregnancy test,” she said. I was bewildered. “I took the morning-after pill six hours after, surely this is just my body reacting to that? I’ve had late periods before because of the morning-after pill, or my period came a few days later or not at all… it’s just messed up my cycle that’s all.”
She held my cup of pee and the pregnancy test stick in it and looked at me. Two lines. Two fucking purple lines. I told her to do it again. She did. Then there were four fucking lines and the room was spinning.
For me to get an appointment with the abortion clinic I had to check off three things; a pregnancy test done by a doctor, blood tests to further prove I was indeed pregnant, and an ultrasound to determine my fertilised egg was less than a certain amount of weeks old so I could legally have a medical abortion.
There I was in the ultrasound chair with my legs spread and my childhood friend holding my hand as this woman shoved a dildo-like contraption up me. I diverted my eyes from the screen they were staring at, showing what it looked like inside my body while she wiggled this ice-cold lubed-up device in me and told me to relax my pelvic floor muscles.
When it was done, she asked me when my last period was so she could estimate a date for the clinical records. I knew the exact day because I had texted my then-boyfriend saying, “Got my period, bring eggplant dumplings and fried rice”.
“But I took the morning-after pill so I don’t even get how this happened? Aren’t they like 95 per cent effective?” I asked her. She looked down at her clipboard, took some notes and looked back up. “Well, from the date you told me you started and finished your last period, you were ovulating at the time you took the morning-after pill.”
What did that have to do with anything? I looked dumbfounded and spluttered, “So?!”, to which she put down her clipboard. Her body dropped into a motherly posture as though she was talking to a small child. “The morning-after pill doesn’t work the day before, day of, or day after ovulation because the morning-after pill delays ovulation and you were already ovulating so it was ineffective.”
You know that moment in Friends when Rachel tells Ross she’s pregnant, and he’s dumbfounded that the condom failed to work? That was me yelling at this poor woman that “They should have put that information on the front of the box in huge black letters!”.
I felt gaslighted by my own knowledge of what plan B was. I was furious at the pharmacists for not putting two and two together that I was ovulating, pissed off at the subpar sex education I got in high school that never mentioned this, fuming at this not being clear on the box (I assume it’s on the instructions manual in tiny fine print, but I don’t think that’s good enough), and in disbelief that none of my friends knew about this either.
What was the questionnaire question asking when my last period was about then? Why have I been made to care more about vomiting within 24 to 48 hours than about my potential pregnancy, and most importantly why did it take me 25 years to know this information?
Almost $950 dollars and one abortion later, I downloaded the Flow app to track my periods and my ovulation days. I tell my story to friends and strangers in the hope that this information spreads to someone out there, who like me, trusted in always having a plan B.
For more information about ovulation and the morning-after pill, head here.