MORNING AFTER PILL (MAP)
This is a form of “emergency contraception” typically used by women who have unprotected or unplanned sexual intercourse, or birth control failure (such as a broken condom). The drug regimen is usually started within 72 hours of this incident.
The pills that are taken contain high doses of estrogen and/or progesterone. They are usually taken in two doses, 12 hours apart. The two FDA-approved drugs on the market are Preven (progesterone-like) and Plan B (a combination of progesterone-like and estrogen related).
These medications work on the woman’s reproductive system in one of several ways. They may prevent or delay the release of an egg from the ovaries (ovulation), they may slow the transport of the egg or the sperm in the fallopian tube, or they may make the lining of the uterus thinner and less hospitable for the implantation of an egg that is already fertilized.
These emergency contraception medications prevent about 75-89% of pregnancies that occur after unprotected sexual intercourse.
Side effects from these medications may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, and changes in menstrual bleeding. A woman’s next menstrual cycle may start earlier or later than expected, and the flow may be heavier or lighter than usual. Still, most women will start their next period within 7 days of when it is expected. If she has not started it within 3 weeks after taking MAP, it is possible that she is pregnant, and she should see her healthcare provider.
Emergency contraception drugs do not appear to harm an early pregnancy, but due to the effect of slowed transport, a failed MAP may result in an increased possibility of an ectopic pregnancy (fertilized egg that implants in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus) which can lead to very serious complications.
Emergency contraception is available by prescription only. Some providers will require an office visit before the prescription is written.