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Morning After Pill Use Is Common, Poses Risks


Twenty percent of women aged 18 to 35 used the morning after pill during the last year, according to survey results from The Co-operative Pharmacy in the United Kingdom. Use of the morning after pill poses risks, as does the behavior that often leads women to take the pill after unprotected sex.

Some men prefer women take the morning after pill

The term “morning after pill” is actually a misnomer, as women can take this form of emergency contraception up to 120 hours following sexual intercourse. Other terms sometimes used include emergency contraception and emergency birth control.

The Co-operative Pharmacy surveyed 3,000 men and women, and in addition to the 20 percent who said they had used the morning after pill, it also found that one in six women had a sexual disease. While emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy, it does not protect women against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) nor the possibility that they will pass them along to their partners.

Mandeep Mudhar, Head of National Health Service Development at The Co-operative Pharmacy, noted that “the emergency contraceptive pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Pharmacists provide free accessible advice about contraception but we would always urge people to use a condom, particularly with a new partner, as it offers the greatest protection.”

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The prevalence of STDs is on the rise. In Great Britain, nearly 500,000 new cases of Chlamydia, genital herpes, and gonorrhea, among others, are diagnosed each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 19 million new cases of STDs are diagnosed each year, and this figure does not include genital herpes and papillomavirus, which are not reported to the CDC.

Also disturbing is the reason the women used the emergency contraception. Twenty percent blamed overindulgence in alcohol or drugs for not using other preventive contraception with a new sexual partner.

Among the men who responded to the survey, 1 in 67 said they would prefer a woman use emergency contraception so that they did not need to wear a condom. The researchers also learned that 2 percent of women aged 18 to 21 take the morning after pill as their regular form of contraception. Up to 250,000 women are estimated to have used the morning after pill three times or more in 2010, based on projection statistics.

Emergency contraception is composed of progestin, one of the hormones found in birth control pills. The progestin works in three ways: it prevents a woman’s ovaries form releasing eggs, it thickens a woman’ cervical mucus, which blocks sperm and stops it from joining with an egg, and it thins the uterine lining, which can prevent pregnancy by keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

Although use of the morning after pill is common, the survey also found that the Pill is the preferred contraceptive method for nearly 50 percent of women. Some of the risks posed by use of the morning after pill are associated with drinking and drug behaviors, which can also promote the contraction and spread of STDs.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Planned Parenthood
The Co-operative Pharmacy



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