When the City authorized an over-the-counter version of the "morning after" pill last fall, we wondered how quickly its effects would be felt. Well, a study released by the City Council yesterday found that unwanted pregnancies and abortions have been down in the City thanks to the availability of over-the-counter emergency contraception.
The study found that 94% of pharmacies surveyed knew that the medication was available as an OTC item and carried the item on their shelves. This is up from the 55% of drug stores that carried the pill 5 years ago. The emergency contraceptive bill, also known as Plan B, essentially works by delivering a higher dose of progesterone than is found in the typical once-a-day pill, basically preventing ovulation, fertilzation, and implantation of the egg (depending on what stage the ovum is in) if taken within 72 hours of intercourse. The cost of the medication is only slightly higher than when it was available by prescrption only, now averaging about $40 a pop, and is about 75-90% effective. One study suggests that the medication might have prevented nearly 50,000 abortions in the year 2000 alone. Despite these impressive results, the new report suggests that the war still isn't won, encouraging clinics to offer Plan B at a discounted price to those unable to afford the treatment.Possible side effects of the pill include allergic reactions to the ingredients and a potential increase in menstrual bleeding.
Some facts from the Department of Health about Plan B:
- Plan B is a type of contraceptive (birth control) often called the morning-after pill. It is also know as emergency contraception.
- Plan B is a safe way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. For example, when a condom breaks, you miss a birth control pill or two, or you are forced to have sex. It can prevent pregnancy up to 3 days after unprotected sex, but it works best when it is taken as soon as possible. Some health centers offer it up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
- Plan B is not the same as the abortion pill. If you are already pregnant, Plan B will NOT cause an abortion and will have NO effect on an existing pregnancy.
- Plan B will not protect you against STDs or HIV. If you had unprotected sex, you may want to get tested for STDs. To protect yourself from STDs/HIV you must use a condom every time you have sex.
- Plan B does not work as well as on-going birth control. Call 311 for a referral to a health care professional to talk about different types of birth control, or visit your local family planning clinic.
For more information, check out the DOH Plan B info page.