Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Morning After Pill Update

The "morning after pill" or Plan B has been approved to be sold with out a doctor's prescription to any one 18 years old or older.

Plan B is an emergency contraceptive which can be used to prevent unintended pregnancies.
It consists of 2 pills of 0.75-mg levonorgestrel (a progesterone hormone used in some birth control pills). The first pill should be taken as soon as possible after intercourse. The pills work best if taken within the first 3 days after sexual activity and are most effective if taken within the first 24 hours. The second pill is taken 12 hours after the first pill.

If taken during this time, pregnancy is reduced by 89%. The exact mechanism is unknown, but pregnancy is prevented by interfering with ovulation (release of the egg) or with fertilization (union of the sperm and the egg). If the woman is pregnant, the pills will not be effective and will not induce abortion.

Side effects of the pills are nausea, vomiting and breast tenderness. There have been no reports of fetal malformations. The cost is estimated at $20 to $40.

Plan B is different than RU486 which can be used after the pregnancy has occurred.

Plan B should be available through out the United States by the end of the year. It is already available in California, Hawaii, Alaska, Maine, New Mexico, and Maine. Although it does not require a prescription, it will be sold behind the pharmacist's window so you will have to request it from the pharmacist. An identification card may be checked.

References: The Medical Letter, February 2, 2004; (1175) pp. 10-11 and January 24, 2000; (1070) p. 10. Treatment Guidelines from the Medial Letter, August, 2004; (24) pp. 55-62. The use of these articles are restricted to subscribers.

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