By Steven J. Walerstein, MD, FACP
NuHealth Medical Director
Morning After Pill
After almost a decade of legal battles, the federal government dropped efforts to prevent emergency contraceptive medication (the so called "morning after pill") from becoming available to women and girls of all ages without a prescription. This was in response to an order from a New York Court of Appeals ruling which ordered that a generic version of the pill be made available.
Not meant as a primary birth control method, emergency contraception is meant for any woman who has had unprotected sex and a) have incorrectly used their primary form of birth control b) have had failure of barrier, or condom, protection or c) have been the victim of sexual assault. The pills used have the same hormones used in many traditional hormonal birth control pills, but are only taken for a short. These medications have been used safely for years.
Even though available without a prescription, it is recommended that any sexually active woman who does not want to get pregnant have the morning after pill at home because they are most effective when used shortly after unprotected sex. The pill cannot reverse a pregnancy that has already occurred; it will not interfere with a fertilized egg which has already implanted itself in the uterus. Studies indicate that the morning after pill is very effective if taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, particularly within 24 hours. However, there is some efficacy for as long as 72 hours.
After using the morning after pill there is no urgent need to see a physician, but if a period does not occur at its regular time, a pregnancy test is indicated. In addition, it is probably a good idea to review with your physician why emergency contraception was needed, and to discuss alternative birth control options.
There still are a few more steps before Plan B One-Step appears and becomes available to all women without a prescription on drugstore shelves-most likely in July. This product involves taking one pill only.