Teens and the Morning-After Pill
Morning-after pills, or emergency contraception pills, are a form of birth control available to some teens. Morning-after pills are meant to prevent pregnancy in teens who forgot to use their regular birth control, or whose regular birth control failed, such when a condom breaks. Morning-after pills used by teens are 75 to 89 percent effective in the prevention of teen pregnancy. Morning-after pills are not the same as “abortion pills.”
Morning-after pills prevent a teen from becoming pregnant by releasing hormones that do one of three things:
- Prevent the egg from leaving the ovary
- Keep the sperm and egg from meeting
- Stop the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus wall
This last effect of morning-after pills causes moral or ethical concern for some teens; if a teen is thinking of using the morning-after pill she must decide if she feels comfortable with this possibility. Teen emergency contraception, including the morning-after pill, has not been shown to separate a fertilized egg from the uterus or harm a fetus, but if a teen knows she is pregnant she should not use emergency contraception.
There are several types of teen emergency contraception, or morning-after pills, available. The cost for morning-after pills starts at about $8. Teen emergency contraception is available by prescription from doctors, health clinics, Planned Parenthood, some hospital emergency rooms, and over the counter in a limited number of areas and situations. Most teen emergency contraception requires the teen to take a series of pills as soon as possible after unprotected sex, though some morning-after pills can be used as much as five days later. There is also an emergency IUD, or intrauterine device, but IUDs are not recommended for teens and are much more expensive than other forms of teen emergency contraception. Also, there has been some concern about the safety of morning-after pills for younger teens.
Some side effects of the morning-after pill for teens include:
- Early or late period
- Spotty, heavier, or lighter period than usual
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular bleeding
If the teen’s period does not return within three weeks of taking morning-after pills, or if she has any symptoms of pregnancy, she should see a doctor. The teen should be sure to tell her doctor that she has taken emergency contraception.
Morning-after pills taken by teens may not prevent ectopic pregnancy, a deadly condition where the egg is fertilized outside the uterus. Some symptoms of teen ectopic pregnancy include:
- Severe pain in the lower abdomen
- Spotting, especially after a missed or light period
- Feeling dizzy or faint
If a teen suspects she may have an ectopic pregnancy she should get medical attention immediately.
Taking the morning-after pill does not prevent a teen from getting pregnant the next time she has unprotected sex. The teen should begin or continue to use another method of birth control to avoid pregnancy.
Teen emergency contraception, including the morning-after pill, offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases. If a teen girl chooses to be sexually active, she should limit her sexual partners and require her partner to use a latex condom correctly every time she has sex to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Teens who have been having unprotected sex should see a doctor to be checked for sexually transmitted diseases.
Teens and the Morning-After Pill Sources:
- Planned Parenthood: Emergency Contraception-The Basics [online]
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The National Women’s Health Information Service, “Emergency Contraception.” [online]
- CBSNews.com “FDA Rejects OTC Morning-After Pill” May 6, 2004 [online]