The Morning After?

Let’s talk about emergency contraception.

Being an abstinence program, EC (also know as “Plan B” or “the Morning After Pill”) is not something we promote or provide for our students. However, it’s important to know what it is, and what it does. If you are like I was, parents, perhaps you aren’t sure of the difference between it and the other pill – RU 486. For simplicity’s sake, today I will focus on EC, and save a description of RU 486 for another day.

What is Emergency Contraception?

EC is a pill – a high dose of hormones (also found in birth control pills). To be effective, EC must be taken within 72 hours of an unprotected sexual act. It is most effective in the first 24 hours, but can last in the body for up to 120 hours. Like a typical birth control pill, it is assumed that EC prevents pregnancy in one of three ways. Its primary purpose is to prevent ovulation. It may also prohibit fertilization and/or implantation of the zygote.  Although most sources say EC is not an abortifacient, individuals should know of the post-ovulatory effects of the drug. Many people believe that life begins at conception, not implantation.

So, if a teen takes EC before having ovulated, the chances that she will not ovulate (and get pregnant) are high. If she has ovulated, EC may prevent fertilization by the sperm, or may change her uterine lining to prohibit implantation. Since sperm can survive in the female reproductive system for 5 days, and it is very difficult to pinpoint when one has ovulated, it is possible that the effectiveness of EC is because of its ability to take effect after ovulation.

Why do you need to know about it?

EC is available without a perscription to women 17 and older. Those under 17 need a perscription. Either way, that means your teen daughter has access to it, and you don’t have to know about it. Perhaps your daughter is younger than 17. Should you be concerned? Yes, if she has a friend who is willing to go get a perscription for her. A scary thought for parents who are encouraging their teens to be abstinent.

I’m not writing this today to encourage giving contraceptives to your teens. Rather, parents, I want to inform you on one of the options out there. It’s easy enough to get EC – and since it’s taken only sporadically, it’s appealing. Which makes it all the more important for us to be communicating our expectations for abstinence to our teens. Studies show that parents who communicate this expectation regularly have teens that are more likely to remain abstinent. And having that attitude of open dialogue about the subject may mean that if your teen “messes up” she won’t be seeking out EC, but rather, your counsel.