Suppose a condom broke after you and your significant other just had sex. Would you stop to think of the consequences that could follow? For many female college students who have faced this problem, they turn to medical assistance the morning after to ensure a pregnancy will not result.
Many people have different views on abortion and birth control. But to be clear, the “morning after pill” is not an abortion pill but a form of emergency contraception. However, there is another pill that actually terminates a woman’s pregnancy and is known as RU-486 and Mifeprex. It was approved by the FDA in 2000 and is used to terminate pregnancies less than 49 days along. The medicine, Mifepristone, blocks the hormone progesterone, which prepares the lining of the uterus for a fertilized egg and helps maintain pregnancy.
[pill] A community specialist from Planned Parenthood in East Lansing, who has requested her name be omitted, explained how the pill is not an abortion. “People who think that it is an abortion have the wrong information,” she said. “The pills can do three things: they can prevent the ovary from realizing an egg, thicken cervical mucus or change the lining of the uterus so that a fertilized egg may not attach and develop into a pregnancy.”
A woman who is having a medical abortion goes into the doctor’s office or clinic and reads information about the drug. If she decides to go through with it, she gets a physical exam and signs a patient agreement form. She then takes three Mifeprex pills in front of the doctor and two days later goes back to check and see if she is still pregnant. If she is still pregnant she then takes two Misoprostol pills.
Two weeks after she takes the first three pills, she has another appointment. At this follow-up visit she is checked again to make sure the pregnancy has ended. If it has not she can choose not to end the pregnancy. If she then chooses to keep the baby, there may be birth defects. If she still chooses to end the pregnancy, then she will have to have a surgical procedure.
Mifeprex, like surgical abortions, has side effects that include bleeding and cramping and are expected because they are a sign the medicine is working. Bleeding or spotting is also common. It may be like a normal heavy period or worse and can last anywhere from nine to 16 days. Bleeding can also last up to 30 days. Other common symptoms of treatment include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, back pain and tiredness.
Janelle, who asked her last name be omitted, of Womancare Clinic in Southfield, said abortion pills are completely safe. “You can take it up to six weeks of pregnancy and it just causes you have to a miscarriage.”
She explained other side effects of the pill include cramping, passing of the tissue and bleeding like a heavy period. “We just encourage our patients to do what they feel comfortable doing,” she said. “We do not make recommendations to them, we just offer support.”
Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are a way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or when other methods fail. They are available by prescription at Planned Parenthood, your doctor’s office and other women’s health centers and clinics.
There are two different kinds of ECPs; combined hormone pills and progestin-only pills. Combined hormone ECPs are taken in two doses, 12 hours apart from each other. Progestin-only ECPs are taken in two doses, 12 hours apart from each other, or both pills at one time.
The pills work better the sooner they are taken but can reduce the chances of pregnancy if taken within 120 hours. They can prevent pregnancy anywhere from 75-89 percent of the time if they are taken within 72 hours. However, unlike RU-486, if you are already pregnant, the pills will not work.
ECPs are just stronger doses of birth control pills; in fact, any of the first 21 pills in a birth control pack can be used as an emergency contraceptive. These pills may also cause nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, headache or dizziness but symptoms last only about a day and not everyone experiences symptoms. Other side effects include the pills affecting your period. It could be earlier, later, heavier, lighter or it might just stay the same.
The community specialist also explained how girls should not be afraid to talk to someone if they need help or advice. “I would advise all girls to talk to their doctor or come to Planned Parenthood,” she said. “It is especially important if she thinks she needs a morning after pill because the first time you get one you have to see a doctor or specialist.”
Although females have to see a licesened professional before receiving a morning after pill, the FDA did not approve the drug for over-the-counter use and said it would reconsider with more data provided.
Takarra Alvarado, a predental sophomore, feels making the pills available over the counter is a good thing. “The more it is obtainable for young women, the more it will reduce the number of unexpected pregnancies and abortions.” Other factors include how having to go to see a professional before receiving the pill may prevent a girl from getting the pills in a shorter amount of time, and the longer she has to wait, the less effective the pill becomes.
Everyone is not as eager about such pills being made available over the counter. Andre Vaughn, a premedical junior, thinks the consideration for over-the-counter pills should be given more thought. “They better not just throw it out there because there is a lot to consider,” Vaughn said.
There are many concerns about putting this pill on the market. The FDA is concerned teenagers would abuse the pills and use them incorrectly. “If they approve the pill and put it over the counter, I think there should be an age restriction placed on it,” Vaughn said. “You should have to be at least 18 to buy one on your own.”
There have also been studies done on college campuses and they show a decline in pregnancies and abortions on campuses where the morning after pills are more readily available.
Alvarado feels it is a woman’s right to be able to prevent herself from getting pregnant. “The morning after pill is just like taking a birth control pill,” she said. “Although I would not advise someone not to practice safe sex just because they can get the morning after pill, I would advise someone to take it if I believed it would prevent her from having an unwanted pregnancy if an accident occurs, like a condom broke.”

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