The Morning After Pill
What's the morning after pill and how does it work?
The morning after pill is a form of emergency contraception that
combines high doses of estrogen and progestin. Although it can
be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, or the failure of
contraception, it is most effective if taken within the first 12-24
hours. The overall success rate of the morning after pill is around
75%. A woman can expect to begin menstruation anywhere from
two to three weeks after taking the pill.
The morning after pill is essentially a combination (i.e. multiple
doses taken at the same time) of birth control pills taken at
prescribed intervals. Normally a woman is given two pills, which
are to be taken immediately and two to be taken 12 hours later. If
she vomits within 2 hours of taking the pills, she should then take
two more pills.
The morning after pill is believed to work for several reasons.
Primarily it functions by stimulating the uterine lining to slough off,
either carrying the egg with it, or changing the uterine wall so that
the egg cannot attach itself. It may also prevent ovulation, so that
an egg is not released, (in much the same way as lower doses of
estrogen and progestin do in birth control pills).
Although the morning after pill is simply a combination of birth
control pills, women should not practice this method at home with
someone else's pills or old pills of their own. These pills could be
expired, let alone fail to terminate the pregnancy.
There are some side effects to using emergency contraception.
Many women experience vomiting, nausea, headaches, and
breast tenderness. It is suggested that a woman takes an
anti-nausea medication at least an hour before beginning the
morning after pill. There is also some debate over whether the
morning after pill can damage the fetus in cases where it fails to
terminate the pregnancy. A woman should ask her doctor or health
provider whether she is a good candidate for the morning after pill.
Similarly to the birth control pill, if a woman is over 35 and/or
smokes she should consider an alternative. All side effects and
treatment possibilities should be discussed with a woman's doctor
or health provider.