It's odd how sometimes we know so little about the things that concern us the most. Like emergency contraception. If you are a male or a female who is sexually active but not trying to have kids right away, you should know your options. I don't doubt that most people here at Pomona know about the different methods of contraception available today and that most sexually active men and women have found the means and combinations that work best for them. But I was surprised to hear some possibly dangerous misconceptions regarding emergency contraception, or "the morning after pill," or Plan B.
On Thursday March 31, HC Pomona organized a Back Up Your Birth Control event at Frary. We talked about the tree brands of emergency contraception - Plan B® One-Step, Next Choice® and ella® - gave out brochures and tattoos to the interested. But we also received some weird looks and comments like, "Isn't that very expensive? Why not just use normal contraception?"
So here are some thoughts from someone who has used emergency contraception and has one stashed away in her dresser, just in case:
WHAT: Emergency contraception (EC), sometimes referred to as Plan B or the "morning after pill," is a method of birth control that can prevent pregnancy after sex. It is not a method of contraception that you can use on a regular basis. In fact, it is not advisable to use emergency contraception more than once a month (if you find yourself in need of EC that often, you should probably consider finding a method of contraception that works for you better than the one you are using already). EC doesn't protect from STDs or HIV/AIDS. It is not an abortion pill, which means it won't end pregnancy of you are already pregnant. All it does is decrease the chance of pregnancy by 89% if taken within 72 hours after intercourse (Plan B® One-Step and Next Choice®) and within 120 hours after intercourse (ella®).
Keep in mind that the efficacy of Plan B and Next Choice decreases over the 72 hour window, so the sooner you take it the better!
WHEN: EC is not to be taken lightly. No one should rely on EC on a regular basis, rather it should be used in the case of emergency, when: - your regular method of birth control failed (e.g. the condom broke) - you were late with your regular method of birth control (you skipped more than one pill in a given week and did not use a condom) - you didn't use birth control - you were forced to have unprotected sex WHY: Because you do not want to have a baby but think that you might get pregnant as a result of one of the aforementioned situations. Because taking emergency contraception on time is safer and more efficient than having an abortion later. Because your peace of mind is as important as your health.
HOW: EC prevents pregnancy by delaying or inhibiting ovulation. It may also inhibit fertilization. Which means it will probably give you a stomach ache and a strong period in the first few days after you take it. It is not something you should readily to do your body. But in the cases in which you think it's worth it, you shouldn't hesitate to take EC, because it is a safe and effective method of pregnancy prevention in an emergency. Both women and men can by EC at the HEO (!), Planned Parenthood and stores like Von's and Walgareens without a prescription if 17 years old or older. Which means that you have a relatively easy access to EC. It is expensive (when I bought it from Planned Parenthood it cost $45; the HEO gives a discount, from what I heard it costs $30 there). But it's worth it if you have a scare and need to back up your birth control.
It is good to know that you always have a plan B if plan A fails. Of course, we should always be responsible, which means two things: not counting on EC outside of an emergency and being mature enough to realize EC's potential and make sure that we are prepared in the case of an emergency. I'd advice every Pomona woman who is sexually active but not ready to have a child to have EC ready in the case of emergency. Hopefully you won't need it. But condoms do break - sometimes twice in the same night! - and accidents do happen, so being informed and ready is the best thing you can do for the sake of your own health.