The emergency contraceptive pill or the morning-after pill is a safe and effective means to prevent pregnancy from occurring up to five days after unprotected sex, whose birth control methods have failed or in cases of unanticipated sexual activity or assault.
The morning-after pill should not be taken in the literal sense as a woman does not have to wait until the morning after intercourse to take the emergency contraceptive pill. Nonetheless, the sooner it is consumed the better, as it is more effective. This can be taken at night immediately after having sexual intercourse.
As from the 14th December 2016, the Maltese government has made it compulsory for all pharmacies around Malta and Gozo, to provide the morning-after pill over the counter. Therefore, no doctor prescription is required and anyone can purchase it when necessary.
There are two types of morning-after pill
The morning-after pill comes in two forms, these include the ‘Levonelle’ and the ‘ellaOne’. The main difference between these two pills is that the ‘Levonelle’ should be taken within 72 hours after having unprotected sex, whilst the ‘ellaOne’, can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse.
How does the morning-after pill work?
The morning-after pill works in three ways:
- It delays ovulation as the normal menstrual cycle is altered;
- It prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg, and therefore inhibits ovulation;
- It has the effect of creating irritation in the uterine lining and therefore prevents a fertilised egg is implanted.
It is not an ‘abortion pill’!
There is considerable public confusion about the difference between the morning-after pill and the abortion pill. The emergency contraceptive pill is not an ‘abortion pill’ and never terminates an existing pregnancy, nor does it impact or harm the developing embryo.
The main difference is that the morning-after pill prevents ovulation and fertilisation from occurring, whilst the abortion pill ends a pregnancy.
The side effects of the emergency contraceptive pill
The morning-after pill is safe for nearly all women and no serious cases have ever been reported in connection to oral contraception. However, like any other medication, people may experience side effects.
In certain women, this may reduce the blood flow amount one gets during their period, or may also delay it. Women who suffer from serious liver problems need to consult with their doctor before taking it.
Other possible side effects may include nausea, vomiting, bloating, dizziness, headaches, fatigue or breast tenderness.
Is it effective?
Like many other contraceptives, this may not always work. Studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of morning-after pill users have been satisfied with it, and would also recommend it to a family member or a friend.
This, however, may not always be effective. Medical professions indicate that the morning-after pill is less likely to work if a woman is overweight.
It has also been confirmed that if a woman vomits immediately after consuming the pill this will most probably not work. Women on medication also have reduced chances that the pill will work.