Interview with a male pharmacist
“A male pharmacist pulled us into his little office and asked us a series of questions, I felt a lot more comfortable that my boyfriend was with me, but it seemed to me the pharmacist wasn’t really asking my boyfriend any questions about what happened, but rather me.
Did he want to hear my side of the story for reasons of my autonomous body, or was he asking me these questions because he assumed that as a woman it’s my responsibility in making sure this doesn’t happen?” – Anonymous, 24, Kent
Picture this: your regular contraception failed, you’ve headed to the pharmacy to buy the morning after pill and, when you finally reach the counter, you see a male face peering back at you.
Would seeing a male pharmacist put you off buying emergency contraception, or should the gender of the person behind the counter not make a difference?
It may be irrational, but many women feel awkward talking about periods, contraception or sex with men. At #MyMorningAfter, we want to ensure that anyone who seeks emergency contraception can easily access it.
We don’t want preconceived ideas about the person behind the counter to put you off, so we spoke to Daniel Brash*, pharmacist and co-director of Pharmcare Ltd, to get some insights into the brain of a male pharmacist.
Spoiler: he’s not judging you
A recent study by ellaOne found that a whopping one in eight women would travel to another town to get the morning after pill in order to avoid bumping into someone they know.
Daniel, who has been working as a pharmacist since 1995, has seen this happen first hand.
“The strangest incident I’ve ever had was when I was told by a counter assistant that there was a lady who wanted to speak to me about the morning after pill, so I went out into the pharmacy and there was this lady in her mid-thirties at the back of the shop. She caught my eye and I thought ‘she looks extremely familiar.’
“It was someone my wife knows,” he continues, “ I know she's said hello to this lady when we've been out and about. I was assisting another customer and I went into the dispensery for a moment. When I came back into the pharmacy, the woman had vanished! I know she doesn’t live near my pharmacy, so I feel that she'd gone to an area where she thought she'd be safe and wouldn't know anybody and when she saw me she ran away.”
Can Men Buy The Morning After Pill?
According to our research, 6% of women would ask someone else to buy the morning after pill for them. Daniel says that some of his customers try to avoid going to the pharmacy themselves and send their boyfriend, husband or friend instead.
“It’s a difficult situation because we need to ask relevant questions to make sure it's appropriate for the individual,” he says, “so we need to speak to the patient directly.”
“There was one incidence where I had to carry out the consultation by phone, while the partner or husband was in the pharmacy,” he continues, “if it is an absolute necessity, then we will do that, but ideally, the person who comes in the shop would tell the patient that we need to speak to them in person.”
What can pharmacists do to make purchasing the morning after pill less embarrassing?
Daniel understands that women may initially feel strange about buying the morning after pill from a male pharmacist: “There’s possibly an initial sense of embarrassment when ladies come in and there's a male pharmacist there,” he says, “but I always ask if they want another member of staff to come and chaperone while we're in the consultation room and they always say no.”
Purchasing the morning after pill is nothing to be ashamed of, but as our My Morning After stories show, many women are worried that they will be judged for it. So what can pharmacists do to put their customers’ minds at ease?
“The first thing I do is try to reassure them straight away. I say: ‘I'm not sitting here to judge you at all and I don't want to ask anything that's embarrassing, but I've just got to make sure it's suitable and it's the best treatment for you’.”
One in four women would rather wait until there was no one else in the pharmacy before going to get the morning after pill to avoid being seen by other customers, according to our research.
Some pharmacists, including Daniel, have worked to make the purchase more discrete.
“I always make sure that our till is set to not display the name of the product on the customer side of the screen,” Daniel says, “it’s automatically turned off for emergency contraception so no one else in the shop will see. I always make sure I take it out in a prescription bag, so that patients in the shop can't see what the customer is buying.”
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to hide the name of the morning after pill on the checkout screen or bring the pill out in a discrete bag.
In the future, we hope that people won’t need to hide this purchase, because they will know they have nothing to be ashamed of, but we’re not quite there yet.
ellaOne’s #MyMorningAfter campaign aims to give reassurance, provide information and end any lingering societal stigma associated with the morning after pill.
If you have taken the morning after pill, and you feel comfortable sharing your experience, then share your story and help us end the stigma.
*Daniel Brash does not endorse any medical brands or products.
ellaOne® 30mg film-coated tablet contains ulipristal acetate and is indicated for emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Always read the label.
Words: Sophia Moss