What to expect when you don’t want to be expecting
By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor
The morning-after pill is an emergency contraceptive available at most pharmacies and drugstores. Though you do not need a prescription, in some retailers you do need to speak to a pharmacist before they will sell it to you. Variants include Option 2, Plan B, Backup Plan, as well as a few other generic brands. In general, they all tend to do the same thing, and they all have the same side effects. Despite the fact that the morning-after pill has been around since the early ’70s, many people are still vastly uninformed when it comes to what the pill actually does, and what they can expect after taking it.
First and foremost, the morning after pill is not the abortion pill. This confusion has led many people to reject the pill unnecessarily. The morning-after pill is meant to prevent pregnancy by inducing an early menstrual cycle, and voiding the uterus to prevent an egg from attaching itself to the uterine wall. It must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex—though they do cite that taking it within 12 hours is ideal. The abortion pill, known clinically as Mifegymiso, is meant to be a non-surgical alternative to an abortion, and can be taken within the first nine weeks after it has been determined that a pregnancy has occurred. It is a known fact by many researchers, including those as the Office of Population Sciences at Princeton University, that it is physically impossible for the morning-after pill to terminate an existing pregnancy. The easiest way for the average consumer to tell the difference is that Mifegymiso requires a prescription, and will run you about $300-$400, while the morning-after pill is available over-the-counter and costs $30-$40.
Before taking the morning-after pill you should know that it is not recommended that you rely on it as a consistent birth control method. It does affect your hormone levels as well as your overall body chemistry, which, in general, is not something you want to mess with. The side effects can also be a bit debilitating, and tend to worsen the more often you take it. The morning-after pill is meant to be a last resort in case of an accident with the condom/diaphragm or a heat-of-the-moment situation.
If you do find yourself in need of the morning-after pill, be sure to clear your schedule. Call in sick, cancel plans, go somewhere quiet—because you will not want to be doing much afterwards. Though severity of side effects tends to fluctuate depending on the individual, you can expect to feel like you would on the worst day of your period. Nausea and cramps are the most common side effects, as well as fatigue and fever. Thankfully these symptoms are quick to pass and should be gone within a day or two. Stock up on the chocolate and Midol, and you should be fine. Don’t get freaked out if you have spotting for the next few days. This is very common, and just means that the pill did its job. The amount of spotting will be determined by where you were in your fertility cycle before taking the pill. Those closer to their menses will have spotting more similar to a full-blown period, while those further from their ovulation date will have spotting that will be minor by comparison.
Perhaps my biggest personal gripe in regards to the morning-after pill is the lack of education surrounding it. Because it is still considered a bit taboo, due mostly in part with its confusion with Mifegymiso, it is not something that you learn about in all those sexual education courses you had to sit through in high school. Most people I have talked to weren’t even aware that the morning-after pill had side effects. It is up to you to educate yourself, and know your options—as well as what to expect when you don’t want to be expecting!