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The Morning After Pill – How it Works

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While the push for safer sex is working in today’s society, sometimes a woman finds herself having had unprotected sexual intercourse and fears she may be pregnant.  Before, all she could do was hope and pray until time for her next period.  Now, however, she has another option – the morning after pill.

            The marketed name of this pill is Plan B.  Plan B is an “extremely high dosage of chemical hormones.  It contains the same chemical hormones found in some types of birth control” (Morning After Pill, 2006).  Some morning-after pills contain only one hormone, progestin such as Plan B.

Others contain both progestin and estrogen. “Progestin prevents the sperm from reaching the egg and keeps a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus (implantation). Estrogen stops the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation) that can be fertilized by sperm” (Morning After Pill:  Emergency Birth Control, 2006).  Many women do not know much about this pill or even of its availability.  Before taking any medication, it is vital that the users know how it works.

            Many people think that a woman gets pregnant immediately after intercourse.  This rarely happens.  Usually, the sperm live in the woman for days until ovulation.  Then the conception takes place (Morning After Pill:  Emergency Birth Control, 2006). Plan B works like a regular birth control pill by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary, by preventing the fertilization of an egg, or by preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus (Plan B, 2006).

The morning-after pill is designed to be first take within three days of unprotected sex and then again twelve hours later.  However, women may experience the side effects of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue and headache. “According to the Food and Drug Administration, the morning-after pill is 80 percent effective in preventing pregnancy after a single act of unprotected sex” (Morning After Pill:  Emergency Birth Control, 2006).

Many individuals and groups argue that in some cases the morning after pill is just like abortion.  According to one site, pharmacist Bogomir Kuhare asserts that after taking this pill, a woman’s body “rejects the living human embryo, and the child will die. This result is a chemical abortion” (Emergency contraception: The morning-after pill. 2005).  However, most medical professionals argue that morning-after pills are not abortion pills because they do not terminate established pregnancies (Morning After Pill:  Emergency Birth Control, 2006).  This pharmacist and others may be confusing the morning after pill with the French abortion pill introduced a few years ago called RU-486.

“RU-486 is a drug called mifepristone that is designed to abort pregnancy during the first trimester. Mifepristone is a steroid abortifacient drug that blocks the hormone progesterone and thereby ends the viability of the fetus. Mifepristone is typically followed 48 hours later by an injection of prostaglandin to induce contractions of the uterus that expel the fetus” (Emergency Birth Control, 2001).  The morning after pill is take before a woman becomes pregnant while Ru-486 is usually taken after she knows she is pregnant.

            Any woman aged 18 years or older can buy a morning after pill from a pharmacy with proof of age.  Women under 18 years of age must have a doctor’s prescription.  Before a woman takes any kind of contraception or morning after pill, she should understand all of its side effects, risks and procedures.




Plan B.  August 2006.  Retrieved 10 April 2007 from http://www.go2planb.com/


Emergency Birth Control.  2001. Retrieved 10 April 2007 from http://www.emergencybirthcontrol.org/

Emergency contraception: The morning-after pill. 2005.  Retrieved 10 April 2007 from             http://www.morningafterpill.org/mapinfo1.htm

The Morning After Pill, August 2006.  Retrieved 10 April 2007 from             http://www.optionline.org/map.html?gclid=CICuxvveuosCFQnGgAodOBi-ww

Morning After Pill:  Emergency Birth Control. 2006.  Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 10 April 2007      from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/morning-after-pill/AN00592

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