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Facts About the Morning After Pill (MAP)

The most common brand of morning-after pill sold in the United States is called Plan B®. It is reported to work within 72 hours after sex. There are things you should consider before you take this drug. Although it is advertised as safe and effective, it is good to know all the facts before you take it. Your body and your health are important.

Plan B® contains the same types of chemicals found in birth control, but at an extremely high dosage. Plus, you may not even need it. You can only get pregnant on certain days of the month-around the time that you ovulate. Typically, there are only about three to five days a month in which a woman can get pregnant. Unfortunately, most women looking for the morning-after pill are panicked because they think (or perceive) the clock is ticking, and as a result they don't take the time to evaluate their situation. If you weren't fertile when you had sex because you were nowhere near ovulation, it is senseless to take the drug. It will only subject you to the possible side effects of nausea and vomiting and put a bunch of unnecessary hormones in your body.

Women who are considering Plan B® do not always know where they are in their cycle or if they are fertile, so they rush and spend money on a drug that they don't need and that may harm their bodies.

How Does the Morning After Pill Work?

Many women don't know how Plan B® works. Plan B® works in one of three ways, and the difference depends upon where the woman is in her cycle. If she has not yet ovulated, taking Plan B® can work as a contraceptive and suppress ovulation.

If she has ovulated, it can prevent the sperm from coming into contact with the egg.

The last way Plan B® may work is a little more complicated. Conception or fertilization is the term used when the sperm joins the egg. (Sperm can fertilize an egg as early as 15 minutes after intercourse.) When this happens, human life has begun. The embryo moves through the fallopian tube and implants in the uterus about a week later. If Plan B® is taken after an egg has been fertilized it may not allow the embryo to implant in the uterus. This would be a very early abortion.

What Are the Risks Associated with the Morning After Pill?

Plan B® is a relatively new drug, and as a result, there has not been much testing on its effect on the body. Some of the commonly reported side effects are nausea, abdominal pain, lethargy, headache, menstrual changes, dizziness, breast tenderness, and vomiting. After taking Plan B® it is not uncommon to have an irregular period. This could mean heavier bleeding, lighter bleeding, or a delayed period. It can take time before your body will go back to normal and stabilize itself.

Women who have diabetes should be monitored while taking Plan B, and women with pelvic inflammatory disease should not take Plan B, except under a physician's careful monitoring. Unfortunately, a lot of women don't know if they have diabetes and/or don't know if they have pelvic inflammatory disease.

After taking Plan B® there is also an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs anywhere outside of the uterus. The most common type of ectopic pregnancy is also referred to as a tubal pregnancy because it occurs in the woman's fallopian tube. If this goes unnoticed, a woman could be at serious risk. Even a small delay in diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy can be fatal.

Plan B® does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) or other sexually transmitted diseases. It is generally recommended that any sexually active woman seek testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Another major problem concerning Plan B® is the effect it could have if you are already pregnant. A woman may have unprotected sex with her partner and rush to get the morning-after pill; however, when she takes Plan B® she may be pregnant from a previous time she had sex. Women who have a known or suspected pregnancy should not take the pills, according to the manufacturers of Plan B®. Have you taken a pregnancy test? Please contact the OPC at 407.846.9101 to schedule a pregnancy test.

Why should I take a pregnancy test before and after taking the MAP?

Before taking the MAP, it is recommended that you take a pregnancy test to determine if you may be pregnant from sex earlier in the month or a previous month. If you already have an established pregnancy, taking the MAP will be pointless and will subject you to the possible side effects. The OPC can provide you with a free and confidential pregnancy test to let you know if you conceived more than 7-10 days ago.

If you do not start your period after taking the MAP, contact the OPC or your doctor to schedule a pregnancy test. If you have concerns about a possible ectopic pregnancy, please contact your doctor or go to the Emergency Room.

How do you feel about abortion? We're here to listen. Contact the OPC at info@opchelp.org or 407.846.9101 for more information.