The Morning After Pill

What is the morning after birth control pill?
There are two kinds of emergency contraceptives: the regular birth control pill, which contains estrogen and progestin, and another, commonly referred to as the “morning after” pill, which contains progestin only. The “morning after” pill is actually a misnomer. The pill doesn’t have to be taken the morning after to interrupt pregnancy; but it should be taken within 72 hours after sex. It may also be called the “post-coital” pill, or PCP, or the “emergency contraceptive,” or EC. In the US this pill is called “Plan B.”

What does it do?
In most cases, it prevents pregnancy by blocking the release of eggs from the ovary, and it also has an effect on the lining of the womb, preventing the egg from embedding itself there.

Is it dangerous?
No. Early forms of PCP did cause nausea, but that has been largely cured. You might feel slightly sick after taking it, but should not vomit. Other side effects (very rare) include headache, dizziness, spotting of blood, sore breasts, and stomach ache.

If you are suffering from severe liver disease or porphyria you should not take PCP. Also, if you are taking St. John’s Wort, you should ask your doctor for a stronger dosage of PCP as St. John’s Wort reduces its effectiveness.
I heard that the FDA had disapproved the morning-after pill. Can I still get it?

The FDA in 2004 did reject over-the-counter dispensing of emergency contraceptives out of fear that teens would take the pill without a doctor’s supervision. They did say they would reconsider if more data were given. Barr Laboratories, maker of PCP, expressed disappointment, but vowed to again seek approval, saying it would submit a proposal to limit over-the-counter to anyone 16 years old, or older. They did so, but the FDA found their evidence less than adequate. They demanded more information about the proposed program or data to prove that young teens could handle over-the-counter use of the drug. The FDA’s own scientists found PCP a safe and viable alternative to abortion, but came under pressure from conservatives, who maintained that such use would only encourage teen sex.

The conservatives won. The FDA capitulated. Criticism came quickly:
“The decision blatantly disregards the overwhelming scientific evidence,” said Kirsten Moore of the Reproductive Health Technologies Project. “The Bush administration has denied American women timely access to a safe, proven second chance to prevent pregnancy.”

The FDA denied any political influence, saying it had no contact with anyone from the Bush administration. It insisted that given more data, it would reconsider.

A California study of 2,117 women found that giving free access to Plan B did not result in more sexual behavior. Women supplied with the drug in advance of need were found to use the pill 1-1/2 more readily than women who filled their prescriptions at a drug store or pharmacy.

In California, Washington, Alaska, New Mexico, and Hawaii you can buy PCP over the counter from certain pharmacists.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, the FDA is expected to render a final decision on Barr’s second “over-the-counter” application by September 1, 2005.

My pharmacist won’t fill my prescription – why?
In June of 2005, Reuters reported that the American Medical Association had passed a resolution stating that any pharmacist who refuses for moral reasons to dispense the pill upon presentation of a prescription must refer the client “to an appropriate alternative dispensing pharmacy without interference.” Some pharmacists objected strongly, saying they would still be involved in a process they deplored, and some who refused kept the prescription!

Included in the AMAs resolution was a statement to the effect that it would apply for approval of a plan to allow doctors to dispense the pills themselves, if there is no willing pharmacist within 30 miles radius.

Will PCP affect my menstrual cycle?
After taking PCP, you should have another period within a month. If you have not taken PCP before, your next period may last a little longer. If your period doesn’t come, you may want to take a pregnancy test. If you are still not convinced, wait a week and test again. Keep in mind that if you have sex after you have taken PCP, you will not be protected.

Are there risks with taking it repeatedly?
Probably not, but if you find yourself taking PCP again and again, you might want to talk to your doctor about using a different kind of contraception.

Where can, and can’t I, get the morning after pill?
For sure not at Wal-Mart. America’s largest retailer, long known for locating itself away from competition, is often the only choice for filling their prescriptions after the “mom-and-pop” stores have found themselves unable to survive and gone out of business. Wal-Mart refuses to stock PCP. It has denied being a “Christian” company, but as reported in Christianity Today, said “âÂ?¦the basis for our decisions was the values of Scripture.” This may be easier to understand when you remember that Wal-Mart is based in the “Bible Belt” south. It will, however, refer you to another pharmacist.

You should be able to purchase the drug at K-Mart, Rite Aid, Walgreens and other large retail chains, as well as from the many online pharmacies out there.

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