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Birth Control Health Center

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"Morning After Pill" Doesn't Change Sex Habits

Easier Access Not Associated With Higher Rates of Unprotected Sex

The FDA Debate continued...

The FDA is now considering an application by Plan B manufacturer Barr Laboratories to make the emergency contraception available without a prescription to women over the age of 16. The agency is expected to rule on the request next month, but contraceptive researcher Melanie Gold, DO, tells WebMD that she is not optimistic that the ruling will be favorable.

"In this political climate I would be very surprised if they approved it," she says. "It really doesn't make sense to put an age restriction on an over-the-counter product, and even if you did, I can't think of how it would be enforceable. But it would mean better access than we have now."

Sex Habits Didn't Change With Plan B

Plan B consists of two doses of the contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel, which are taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex. The contraceptive hormone changes the uterine lining to prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg. The drug works to prevent pregnancy by delaying ovulation.

In a study released last spring, Gold and colleagues followed 300 women under the age of 21 who either had the emergency contraceptive or knew they could get access to the pills if they needed them. The researchers reported no difference in sexual behaviors between the two groups. The teens that had Plan B were no more likely to engage in unprotected sex than those who didn't have it.

The larger, newly published study found essentially the same thing.

It also showed that sexual risky behaviors, including the numbers of partners were the same between the groups.

The women given Plan B were almost twice as likely to use it as women who had to seek out emergency contraception after having unprotected sex, but it was clear that even women with easy access did not use the contraceptive every time they needed to.

"Given that only a fraction of the women having unprotected sex used emergency contraception, it seems we need to spend our energy trying to make it easier for these women to get contraception, not harder," Raine says.

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