- 3 million unintended pregnancies occur each year in the United States alone;
approximately 1.4 million of them end in abortion.
- While other means of contraception are preferable, another available tool
is "emergency contraception" (EC), also known as the "morning after pill."
- EC is NOT the same thing as "RU486" or an "abortion pill." EC contains
the same ingredients as standard birth control pills, just in much higher
- An emergency is defined as a situation in which a woman's normal contraceptive
has failed (e.g. the condom broke) or, for whatever reason, a couple failed
to use contraception.
- Two FDA-approved brands of EC are currently on the market: Preven (since
1998) and Plan B (since 1999). They are essentially higher-dose versions
of the birth control pill, compressed into two tablets. The first dose must
be taken within 72 hours after having unprotected sex, followed by a second
pill taken 12 hours later.
- EC is said to be 75 percent effective in preventing an unwanted pregnancy
after sex by interrupting ovulation, fertilization, and implantation of the
- Many advocates of EC recommend that all women who are heterosexually active
who would not want to go through an unintended pregnancy should
have a "back-up" dose of EC available at home "just in case."
- EC is currently available by prescription only. There are ongoing lobbying
initiatives to try to make EC available without a prescription in several
states. The argument in favor of this focuses on the fact that you may not
be able to see a doctor in time, as many doctor's offices are closed on weekends
and holidays, the most likely times for unprotected sex. Women in rural areas
may face additional logistical difficulties, such as finding a pharmacy that
stocks EC products. Some states have "conscience-clauses" that exempt
pharmacists from dispensing drugs that have to do with women's reproductive
- It is very important to understand that EC is NOT an abortion. The two EC
pills you take are not RU-486, the abortion pill, which can be taken up to
nine weeks into a pregnancy.
- EC does not work if you are already pregnant and will not harm a developing
- EC has a long shelf life. You can keep your EC on hand for two
years, according to the FDA.
- In addition to Preven or Plan B, birth control pills that can be used as
- Trivora (4 pink tablets)
- Alesse (5 pink tablets)
- Levlite (5 pink tablets)
- Nordette (4 light orange tablets)
- Lo/Ovral (4 white tablets)
- Levlen (4 light orange tablets)
- Levora (4 white tablets)
- Low-Ogestrel (4 white tablets)
- Tri-Levlen (4 yellow tablets)
- Triphasil (4 yellow tablets)
For more information on contraception, click here.
Created: 9/28/2002  - Donnica Moore, M.D.
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