Physical Health Reproductive and Sexual Health

The Morning-After Pill

Accidents happen, condoms break, and we all are capable of getting caught up in the moment. Even in the healthiest of relationships, communication may fail us, or passions may overcome our greater sense of judgment. However, in these situations, there are options. Don’t worry! The morning-after pill is an over-the-counter backup plan that can help you when intimacy leads you to a stressful predicament.

What you want to know…

The morning-after pill is an emergency birth control pill you can take up to five days after unprotected sex takes place. It works by altering a woman’s hormone balance, in particular, that of progestin, in order to prevent ovulation. This way, sperm cannot fertilizer the egg, because the egg is prevented from release.

If both you and your doctor are comfortable with this type of emergency contraception, you may want to use it if your partner ejaculated inside you, the condom broke during intercourse, you forgot to take your birth control on time, you forgot to insert your vaginal ring, you miscalculated your days of ovulation versus non-ovulation days, or you were not using an method of birth control. Side effects include nausea, breast tenderness, headache, dizziness, and fatigue. Additionally, some individuals may experience irregular menstrual cycles or effects such as unexpected bleeding or breakthrough menstruation.

Emergency contraceptive pills are estimated to be 89% effective in preventing pregnancy when taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. However, the effectiveness of the hormone dose in preventing pregnancy decreases as you get closer to the five day (or 120 hours, the maximum effective time period) after your intercourse. In other words, the sooner the pill is taken, the more effective it is in preventing implantation.

How can I get it?

The morning-after pill is sold in most pharmacies and health centers for women and men 17 years of age or older. The cost can vary from being entirely free at some clinics and health centers to anywhere between $10 and $70 at other pharmacies or drugstore locations. Some of the most well-known and safest brands for the pill include Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice, and Levonorgestrel tablets.

While the morning after pill may often seem like a fool-proof and convenient option, it is important not to rely on it as your only form of contraceptive. Primary birth control methods (e.g., abstinence, condoms, oral contraceptives) are the safest and most effective ways to preventing pregnancy. Recent studies have also shown that frequent and prolonged use of the morning-after pill can cause serious long-term consequences for a woman’s reproductive abilities. Take to your doctor, health worker, or campus student health providers when deciding if the morning-after pill is the right option for you if you have unprotected sex.

Article by Zoey ZoBell

Feature Image Source: NHS choices