Tag Archives: morning after pill

Can Heavy Girls Use Emergency Contraception? ASK AN OBGYN

Dear SuzyKnew!

Tell me more about emergency contraception.  I’m a big girl, and I heard that I can’t use it.  Is this true?


Dear Reader,

Emergency Contraception (EC) – also called The Morning After Pill – can be a lifesaver for women who experience unprotected sex and want to avoid getting pregnant.   The short answer to your question is that women of all shapes and sizes can use EC, however, for heavier women, progestin-only EC may be less effective.

First, some quick facts about EC: EC can be used up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.  It does not end a pregnancy and does not work if you are already pregnant.  It acts like birth control pills, which is what most EC is after all.

There are three types of EC.  1) Pills that contain progesterone (Plan-B, Take Action, Next Choice) is the most common and available without a prescription.   2) Pills that contain Ulipristal acetate (ella) is a newer product that you can only get from a doctor and may be a better option if you are overweight.  3) The IUD, is less commonly used, but it has the added benefit is becoming your long-term (and very reliable) birth control method.

How can I get EC if I need it?:  The good news is that brand name and generic products are now available in the family planning isle of most major pharmacy chains.  Progestin-only EC is legally available on the shelf without age restrictions and can be purchased by both women and men of all ages.    EC is sold on many Internet sites, including Amazon. Ella requires a prescription; but obtaining an online prescription is possible.

EC is definitely something that all sexually active women should have on hand.  Think of the “emergency” products in your bathroom cabinet: that miracle acne cream, your migraine pills or ointment for a nasty cold sore.  You always make sure you always have enough stock right?   EC should be on the shelf.  A zit will eventually go away, an unintended pregnancy will not.  Yeah, this is serious business.  Because there is a 120 hour effectiveness window, you don’t have a lot of time to mess around getting to a pharmacy.

How does weight change things?:  This is an excellent question and a relevant one since over 35% of  American adults are obese.  In addition, women with comorbidities such as diabetes or heart disease are at higher risk of pregnancy-related complications, therefore avoidance of unintended pregnancy is especially important.

Here’s the not so good news:  EC appears to be less effective the more you weigh, and decline steadily in effectiveness with increased BMI.   These findings have come out only recently as more EC products are introduced on the market and more women of varying weight are included in clinical trails.   More studies are in the works, but for now this is what I recommend: Calculate your BMI.  If your BMI is 26 or greater, you should talk to your doctor about which EC is right for you.  Your doctor may prescribe ella which appears to have less of a weight factor.

Take care.


Mother’s Day Is Over. But, How Do You Make Sure You Don’t Celebrate It Next Year?

Last Sunday, there were many happy people – especially mothers – celebrating Mother’s Day.

Now that’s it over, how do you make sure you aren’t on the receiving end of a “Happy Mother’s Day!” greeting next year? How do you remain kid-free? We don’t all want kids. Or, if we do, we don’t necessarily want them right now.

Assuming you’ve got a good contraception game plan (see Contraceptives for more), it ‘s good to know you can skip down to your corner drug store and get yourself some Emergency Contraception – that’s EC for short also called “the morning after pill” – if the condom busts or whatever…

Yep. No need to shell out money for a doctor’s visit, let alone taking off from work for a  prescription you might not even be able to get in time. The new US law requiring pharmacists to sell Emergency Contraception without a prescription to girls 15 and older went into effect last April.  Just make sure you take your Next Choice One Dose, Plan B, Ella, or whatever brand you chose within 72 hours of the deed. Five EC brands are available in the US. Other countries may have a larger or smaller choice of brands.

Ella – approved for use up to 5 days after unprotected sex –  is the most effective of the EC pills but may be a little more expensive. And, ladies, EC is not an abortion. EC prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb. Until the egg is attached to the womb, you are not pregnant.  You can also have an IUD inserted if you can get an appointment in time and shell out the dough ($400 – $1,000), if you don’t have insurance.

On a more sobering note, getting an abortion is getting tougher in the US.  Months after Roe vs Wade marked its 40th anniversary, more states are putting in restrictive laws. But, one in 3 women in the US will have an abortion in her lifetime.  And, women of color are more likely to have an abortion than white women. But, we’re very unlikely to tell our stories.  A piece in Ebony exposes the problem eloquently.

Statistics show making abortion illegal or legal has no effect on the total number of abortions performed in the world.  But, legalizing abortion dramatically reduces the likelihood a woman will die or have serious medical complications from an abortion.  About half of all pregnancies that occur in a year are unwanted, and nearly half of these women chose to terminate their pregnancy.  Around the world, 42 million women choose to terminate their pregnancy each year with close to half of those (20 million) being illegal.

Wishing you another kid-free Mother’s Day – if that’s your choice!