Monday, August 23, 2010


We've had a break from No Babies for a while, and some recent goings on (well, June, but let us not split hairs) warrant a return: an FDA panel has unanimously voted to approve Ulipristal acetate (UPA), a new emergency contraceptive, or "morning after pill", for use in the US.  If taken within 5 days of unprotected sex, it can effectively - and significantly - reduce the likelihood of unplanned pregnancy.

for those evenings where dirty martinis lead to dirty...everything

Emergency contraception is taken for reasons other than drunken hook-ups, (allow me to point out that people effectively use condoms while blindingly drunk every single day, so inebriation is really no excuse).  Missing a birth control pill and being raped are two commonly reported reasons. There are 3 types on the market currently, and all are most effective if taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.  

First, are the progestin-only pills, marketed under 3 brand names: PlanB, PlanB OneStep and Next Choice.  These are over-the-counter if a woman is 18 or older, but ladies 17 and under need to get them from a health care provider.  If taken as directed, these pills reduce the likelihood of pregnancy by about 89%.

best brand name ever.

Side effects are relatively uncommon (about 25% of women experience them) but most often include nausea and vomiting.  These drugs will not END a pregnancy, they will only PREVENT a pregnancy, which is why they need to be taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex.  The pills run about $10-$70, depending on where you get them - they'll be cheapest at a family medicine clinic or Planned Parenthood and the like.

Women who are taking birth control pills can use large doses of them as emergency contraception.  This method is less effective than the progestin-only pills - 75% effective as opposed to nearly 90%.  The plus is, though, most women who would use this method already have the pills on them, making it much easier to adhere to the 72-hour rule.  Here is a table outlining proper dosing for various pills.

this is Lee Kline's pill table.  It is not to be used as a contraceptive device.

The third method of emergency birth control is having a Paraguard, or copper, IUD placed within 5 days of unprotected sex.  This is my post about IUDs - it'll give you the info you need on that tip.  I love linking myself!!

UPA will be marketed in the US under the brand name "ella" (lower case 'e' intentional), and is different from the progestin-only pills in 3 important ways:
  • UPA is every bit as effective as the progestin pills, but remains at peak efficacy for a full 5 days, as opposed to progestin's 3 days.  
  • UPA will be available only by prescription for the forseeable future. 
  • Research showed an even lower incidence of negative side effects in UPA than in progestin, and less barfing is always a good thing.

even if you barf rainbows

UPA has been on the market in 22 European countries since 2009, under the name "ellaOne" - the fact the US is only a year behind is somewhat remarkable to me, but I'm not going to complain.  ella should be available from healthcare providers in the late fall.  I'm really more of a think-ahead kind of girl, and generally recommend others to be so, as well, but I'm always glad to invite reliable, safe new members under the No Babies um-ber-ella (

Oh, come you could resist it.  And whatever, she's hot.

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