How you can get the contraceptive pill for free

How can you get the contraceptive pill for free? 

You can get all contraception, including the contraceptive pill, for free from:

  • Contraception clinics
  • Sexual health clinics (GUM)
  • Some GP surgeries
  • Young people’s services
  • Pharmacies (via the NHS Pharmacy Contraceptive Service)

You’ll be asked some health and lifestyle questions before you’re offered the pill to see if it’s the right option for you.

Whether you’re looking to take the contraceptive pill for contraception, to lighten your periods or to improve acne, it’s important to know all of your options. 

Some online pharmacies (like us!) offer the contraceptive pill either through a private prescription (that you have to pay for) or for free, if you go down the new NHS Pharmacy Contraceptive Service[1] pathway.

Choosing the online route is simple and convenient. You’ll have your consultation online and your prescription will be delivered to your door.

Whichever option you choose, we’ll talk you through the available processes, the different types of pills, and whether you’re able to get the contraceptive pill if you’re under sixteen, and much more! 

So if you’re interested in getting the contraceptive pill and you’re eager to save those pennies, keep reading!

What is the contraceptive pill?

The contraceptive pill is a type of hormonal birth control that’s used to prevent pregnancy. It contains synthetic versions of oestrogen and/or progesterone, hormones that naturally occur within the body. 

The pill works by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovary), while also thickening cervical mucus to hinder sperm movement and thinning the uterine lining to reduce the likelihood of egg implantation.

When used correctly, (meaning you don’t forget to take a pill or you don’t have a bout of vomiting or diarrhoea that can reduce the pill’s effectiveness) the pill is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. It won’t stop those unwanted STIs, though! Only condoms offer full protection against pregnancy and STIs.

Is birth control the same as contraception?

Yes! The terms ‘birth control’ and ‘contraception’ mean the same thing: ways to prevent pregnancy. They include various methods like condoms, the pill, and other techniques that stop sperm from fertilising an egg or to prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus.

Different types of contraceptive pill

The mini pill or progestogen only pill

As its name suggests, the progestogen-only pill or ‘mini pill’ contains just progestogen, unlike the combined pill which also contains oestrogen. Good news – you can get some versions of this pill over-the-counter.

It’s the ideal option if you’re unable to take birth control containing oestrogen or you’re over the age of 35 and smoke. However, you won’t be able to control your periods in the same way as the combined pill and side effects like acne might be more likely.

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The combined pill

You might recognise the combined pill by some of its brand names: Yasmin, Microgynon, and Rigevidon. This type of pill is typically given to manage breakouts due to it containing the hormone oestrogen.

The combined pill contains artificial versions of female hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) that the ovaries produce naturally. These work together by thickening the mucus in the neck of the womb and thinning the lining of the womb so it’s difficult for sperm to reach the egg.

Getting the contraceptive pill for free in the UK

If this is your first time getting the contraceptive pill, you’ll likely be filled with questions – where can you get the pill? Do you need a prescription? How can you access it online? Fear not! We’ll answer your queries below.

Getting the pill in person

There are many options available to you, from popping into your GP surgery, local sexual health clinic, young people’s services or pharmacy.

Some GP surgeries don’t offer a family planning service, but they should advise you on your next nearest option. Alternatively, you can look yourself by clicking here.

Oral contraceptives, or other birth control methods like the hormonal coil, will always be free on the NHS, no matter your reason for taking it. The cost of living is taking its toll on all of us, but remember – the contraceptive pill will always be free and it’s there to prevent pregnancy, so you can always stay in control of your body.

Getting the pill online

If you’re hesitant about going in person to get your contraception, there are online options, too. You’re able to buy the contraceptive pill directly from us today, and we have a wide range of options available, from the combined contraceptive pill to the progesterone-only pill.

All you’ll need to do is fill out a quick and easy consultation and one of our prescribing pharmacists will decide whether the pill is the right option for you.

With the amount of contraceptives available, deciding on the right method can be a tricky process, and you won't know if you’ll experience any side effects with the pill until you take it.

If our pharmacists don’t think the contraceptive pill is right for you, you should give our guide a read. It covers a wide range of birth control options, from the vaginal ring to the contraceptive patch, helping you to find the perfect match for you, your lifestyle and your body.

The NHS Pharmacy Contraceptive Service (PCS)

The NHS has launched a new service enabling individuals to receive their regular oral contraception from the pharmacy without needing a prescription from their GP. Better yet, it’s available in both online and in-store pharmacies.

The goal of the NHS Pharmacy Contraceptive Service (PCS) is to provide more options for people looking for contraception services and to free up capacity in primary care and sexual health clinics (or similar facilities). 

How do you access this service?

Although this gives patients more choice, the eligibility hasn’t changed. You’ll still need to complete a consultation before you’re able to access the pill. This includes some health-related questions to ensure that the pill is the right option for you.

This is an NHS service and so the supply of oral contraception will be exempt from any prescription charges - meaning, it’s free. You also don’t need to registered with a GP to access this service; pharmacies will only inform the GP practice with your consent.

To be eligible, you must be looking to start the contraceptive pill, or obtain a further supply. For the combined pill, you must have started menstruation and be no older than 49 years of age. For the progesteron-only pill, you must have started menstruation and be no older than 54 years of age.

What types of contraception are available through this service?

All types of oral contraceptives are available through the NHS Pharmacy Contraceptive Service. If the pill you’re looking for is available on the NHS, you’ll be able to access it through this service.

I’m under 16 – do I need my parents’ permission to get the pill?

No, you don't need your parents or carers permission to get the pill[2]. All contraceptive services in the UK are free and confidential, including the NHS Pharmacy Contraceptive Service, even for those who are under sixteen years of age.

If you’re under the age of sixteen, the medical professional prescribing the contraceptive pill won’t tell your parents or carer as long as they believe you understand the information you’re being given and the decisions you’re making.

The only time they would ever tell a parent or carer would be if they were concerned for your welfare, for example, if they believed you were at risk of harm or abuse.

Do I need a prescription?

Yes, you do need a prescription for most contraceptive pills as they won’t be suitable for everyone. If you’re getting the contraceptive pill from your GP, they may ask you to come in for pill checks occasionally where they’ll measure your blood pressure, height and weight.

However, some progestogen-only pills are available over-the-counter (OTC) like Lovima and Hana. You’ll still need to answer some health-related questions before you’re able to get them, but you won’t need a prescription from your GP or prescribing pharmacist.

Now you know the different ways you can access the contraceptive pill – whether it’s a local NHS service like your GP or sexual health clinic, or from a reliable online pharmacy such as ourselves, who can deliver your medicine straight to your door.

We hope this guide has provided you with all of the information you need about how you can get the contraceptive pill for free, but if you need further insight about the contraceptive pill or other methods of birth control, visit the NHS website.

Alexandra Moses - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 07 February 2024
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