Student Health Services is providing students with an option of two types of emergency pregnancy contraceptive pills.
The first is Preven, which is a combination of two hormones, estrogen and progestin, similar to regular birth control pills.
Plan B is a second option. Unlike Preven, Plan B only includes the hormone progestin. Plan B has an effective rate of 89 percent, while Preven’s effective rate is only 75 percent.
Plan B (levonorgestrel) is the only FDA-approved, progestin-only, emergency contraceptive. It is used to prevent pregnancy after a contraceptive failure, such as a broken condom, sexual assault or unprotected intercourse.
“If [students] don’t know that the option is available, they may become pregnant and have an unwanted pregnancy,” said Stephanie Marchesani, a pre-nursing student. “It’s important for students to know.”
Some women are wary about using emergency contraceptives because they see this method as similar to abortion.
Plan B is not the same as RU-486, commonly known as the ‘abortion pill.’ Because Plan B is used to prevent pregnancy, it is not effective if a woman is already pregnant, and it will not affect an existing pregnancy or harm a developing fetus.
When a woman has sex without using birth control, her risk of becoming pregnant depends on where she is in her menstrual cycle. During her most fertile days, midway between two menstrual periods, the risk could be as high as 30 percent. By using emergency contraceptive pills, she decreases her chances of becoming pregnant by 75 to 89 percent, according to SHS.
Similar to other oral contraceptives, Plan B works by preventing ovulation or fertilization. It may also inhibit implantation, but once implantation begins, Plan B is ineffective. Plan B has been shown to reduce the risk of pregnancy by 89 percent when taken correctly. It is most effective when taken within 24 hours after intercourse.
Although Plan B is highly effective in emergency situations, it is not a substitute for a primary birth control method. Like all other oral contraceptives, Plan B does not protect against HIV or any other sexually transmitted diseases.
When used as directed, Plan B is safe for most women. There have been no serious side effects associated with Plan B. Some women, however, do experience nausea or menstrual changes.
According to SHS, temporary side effects during emergency contraceptive pill treatment are fairly common. About one-third of women experience nausea or vomiting. Less common temporary side effects are headache, breast tenderness, dizziness, and fluid retention. Many studies of emergency contraceptive pills have demonstrated that they work well. No serious health problems due to the use of such pills have been reported.
It is important for women to consult a health care professional if their scheduled period is more than one week late or if they experience severe abdominal pain.
This method of emergency pregnancy prevention consists of two pills. The first tablet of Plan B should be taken as soon as possible, within 72 hours of a contraceptive failure or unprotected intercourse. The second tablet must be taken 12 hours later.
SHS is offering emergency contraceptive pills to students at no cost.
“Students might abuse the service and have unprotected sex because emergency contraceptives are available here at no cost,” said Rachel L’Erario, a film major. “Emergency contraceptive pills don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases. I think some students may act irresponsibly because of ECP’s.”
Plan B is available at Student Health Services in the basement of Mitten Hall and also by prescription through other healthcare providers. Plan B is also available in a limited number of pharmacies without an advance prescription in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico and Washington.
For more information, contact Student Health Services at 215-204-7500, or visit www.temple.edu/studhealth/MedicalServices.htm.
Leigh Zaleski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.