ASAP Science (of “Morning wood” and “Science of orgasms” fame) has yet another super-cool, super-informative video—this one’s on how emergency contraception (EC) works. Not only does it have cute drawings and explain a complex scientific process in under 3 minutes, it also debunks the common myth that emergency contraception causes abortion. BONUS: It has a nice explanation of how the pill works, too.
If all the myth-busting whets your appetite, we’ve got an article on EC myths that might be of interest. And while you’re thinking about EC, why not read about the all-time most effective method of EC you can get your little animation-loving hands on?
Method Monday: IUDs!
Okay, we confess. We talk about this method a lot. But considering how many points the IUD has in its favor (Super-effective! Reversible! Long-lasting! Low-maintenance! …!!!!!), and how much misinformation is still out there about it, we just feel there’s still plenty to be said. Like what? So glad you asked…
- The IUD is the longest-lasting non-permanent birth control method available in the U.S.—and by long-lasting, we’re talking anywhere from 7 to 12* years, depending on which kind you get. That’s how long the IUD can protect you from pregnancy, but if you decide you want to get pregnant after 3 years (or 1 year, or two months…), you can have the IUD removed anytime and should return to your normal fertility level pretty much immediately.
- There are two kinds of IUD—one called Mirena, which works because of a low dose of the hormone progestin, and one called ParaGard that contains no hormones whatsoever and works thanks to a small amount of copper.
- The ParaGard IUD is the only super-effective non-hormonal birth control option—it lasts for up to 12 years and it’s eco-friendly!
- IUD insertion can hurt a little (or a lot, depending on the person), but most IUD users—even those on the “a lot” side of the spectrum—say it’s well worth the pain.
- The ParaGard IUD can be used for emergency contraception (EC) within 5 days of unprotected sex—in fact, it’s by far the most effective EC option available! Unfortunately, it seems like not a lot of people know that…
- Until recently, IUDs had a bad rap in the U.S., which is probably why they’re not as commonly used here as they are in other countries. Two groups in the U.S. who are more likely to use an IUD? Gynecologists (lady docs are 3 times more likely than the average U.S. woman to have an IUD) and participants in the Contraceptive CHOICE project in St. Louis, who were counseled on different birth control methods and then given their pick of the methods for free. Fortunately more and more U.S. women are getting the message that the new models are safe and super-effective and are deciding to give it a shot.
- There are lots of persistent rumors about who can use the IUD and who can’t—and most of them aren’t true. Even some health care providers aren’t up to date when it comes to IUDs, so if your provider discourages you from considering it, check out Nurse Lola’s great (read: hilarious) suggestions for how to deal.
- Another rumor about the IUD is that it’s super expensive—but it may be more affordable than you think. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many insured folks should now (or soon) be able to get any FDA-approved birth control method without co-pays or deductibles. If you don’t have insurance, there may be other programs in your state to help you get the birth control you want without breaking the bank. And even if you have to pay for the IUD, it might still be worth it cost-wise if you’re planning to have it for a while.
And now, your moment of awkward, IUD-related zen.
*NOTE: Mirena’s manufacturers say it lasts up to 5 years, but in Europe it’s approved for up to 7. ParaGard’s manufacturers claim it can be used for up to 10 years, but studies have shown it’s effective for up to 12. For more on why manufacturers’ labels might not always reflect the latest research, check out our article “What’s in a birth control label?”
The majority of the 210 first-year college students who participated in the study were unable to use websites and Internet search engines to identify the most efficient way to acquire emergency contraception pills (ECPs) in a time of need, said Eszter Hargittai, lead author of the study and associate professor of communication studies at Northwestern.
From “Students find emergency contraception info hard to locate,” posted to Evanston Now on June 14th, 2012.
We know that for various reasons it can be tricky to access EC (emergency contraception) in a timely fashion—kind of a problem in an emergency situation. That’s why Bedsider has a separate database for EC in our “Where to get it” section. But there’s more work to be done…
We got as much information as we could (including every Safeway in the country—whew!), but there are lots of places to get EC that aren’t in there… yet. Which is where you come in. When you search your zip code, you’ll see a link below the map that says “Are we missing a location for EC? Let us know.”
So, if you—or someone you know—have found EC (at a clinic, at a pharmacy, at a supermarket… you get the idea) in your area, now’s your chance to share the wisdom and make EC information just a little easier to find online.
By 2007, scientific consensus was building that morning-after pills did not block implantation. In one study using fertilized eggs that would have been discarded from fertility clinics, Dr. Gemzell-Danielsson found that adding Plan B in a dish did not prevent them from attaching to cells that line the uterus.
Later, in 2007, 2009 and 2010, researchers in Australia and Chile gave Plan B to women after determining with hormone tests which women had ovulated and which had not.
None who took the drug before ovulation became pregnant, underscoring how Plan B delays ovulation. Women who had ovulated became pregnant at the same rate as if they had taken no drug at all. In those cases, there were no difficulties with implantation, said one of the researchers, Gabriela Noé, at the Instituto Chileno de Medicina Reproductiva in Santiago. Dr. Blithe of the N.I.H., said, ‘No one can say that it works to inhibit implantation based on these data.’
Method Monday: Emergency Contraception (EC)
In honor of the Back Up Your Birth Control Day of Action (coming up this very Wednesday), we’re featuring emergency contraception, a.k.a. EC, for our Method Monday this week! The Back Up Your Birth Control theme this year is EC=BC—an excellent choice given the amount of confusion and misinformation floating around online and in the media RE how EC works. You can learn more about the different EC options on our site, but in a nutshell, the reason you have to take it as soon after the (f)act as possible is because it doesn’t work if you’re pregnant. EC can only prevent a pregnancy from starting; it can’t stop one that already has. And if you accidentally take EC before you know you’re pregnant, it won’t hurt you or the pregnancy. A few more noteworthy tidbits about EC:
- Unlike jumping around, douching with strange substances, or praying he pulled out in time, EC works pretty darn well if taken asap after unprotected sex/condom breakage/etc. Though using an effective method before having sex is still better.
- Plan B One-Step, a popular form of EC, came close to being approved for over-the-counter status—which would’ve meant it would be available on drug store shelves just like Aspirin or condoms—back in December 2011. But the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services overruled the FDA’s recommendation, so it’s still behind the counter and prescription-only for anyone under 17.
- Anyone 17 or older has the right to purchase certain forms of EC (namely Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, and Levonorgestrel) without a prescription. This goes for dudes, too. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
- Some forms of EC don’t work as well for women with higher body mass index (BMI). For those women, the ParaGard IUD is probably the best emergency contraceptive option.
- The most effective form of EC (for anyone) is the ParaGard IUD. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of folks don’t know that, and the fact that many health care providers don’t talk about it doesn’t help.
- A higher dose of certain birth control pills after sex works as emergency contraception—though you should consult our article on the Yuzpe method, and/or talk to your health care provider to make sure you get the dosage right.
If your thirst for EC info isn’t quite sated, check out this montage of our Real Stories women talking about their experiences with EC.
And guys know what EC is too! At least our Real Stories guys do:
(Yes, we heard it too—he totally said “my swimmers got past her, her defenders.” Cute or weird? Kinda cute, right?)
Did we mention that dudes are allowed to buy emergency contraception?
Well, this isn’t the first time we’ve posted this video, but we felt it needed to be a shared again in light of yet another report of a pharmacy (CVS) refusing EC to guys. Seriously, folks, guys are allowed to buy EC. It says right here in our Fact or Fiction video.
XOJane Post Reminds Us Why Sex Ed Ain’t Just for Teens
Whew. A lot has been written over the past couple days about a post by Cat Marnell on XOJane. Marnell wrote a (maybe, debatably, slightly tongue-in-cheek?) rant about her use of Plan B for—well—plan A, and how a shortage of it in NYC was causing her to reevaluate her choices.
The bad: Cat’s post offered scant factual information about avoiding unwanted pregnancy and a solid dose of misinformation, too. We’re all about people telling their stories and keeping it real, and maybe XOJane has a liberal interpretation of their editors’ responsibilities to have expertise and/or do research on the topics they write about, but the fact that Cat’s title includes the words “health director” does make it hard to justify publishing all that misinformation (without even an editor’s note).
The good (bear with us): On the other hand, loads of good conversation about contraception has come out of this. And a clear reminder that it’s not just teens who need sex ed. Clearly women like Cat need it too. Unfortunately a lot—a lot—of women (and men) have trouble using birth control effectively, don’t know about all the birth control options available to them, and believe a bunch of stuff that’s just not true. Cat’s post reminds us why it’s so important to reach them with better information.
A few noteworthy responses:
- In a post for The Frisky, Amelia McDonell-Parry shouts out that fabulous long-acting method we’re always talking about: “So, that leaves Marnell’s beloved Plan B—she has apparently never heard about the IUD—which you can get without a prescription and prevents conception.”
- This one’s all in the title: Lesson Of The Day: Don’t Use Plan B As Your Only Birth Control. Yep, EC is great if you slipped up or your method failed, but it’s just not as effective as most methods you use before sex. Like, really not.
- A set-the-record-straight interview on Blisstree with a representative of Plan B.
- And our favorite yet, also on Blisstree: “But negating attitudes like Cat’s, acting like it is just this one out-there person who behaves like this—it sort of stymies discussion about why women (and men) who know better do make such stupid sexual decisions all the time. And that’s a discussion I’d like to have.”
People aren’t perfect. People are busy. That’s why we do what we can to make preventing pregnancy easier. Maybe, if Cat’s looking for a plan A now, she’d consider checking us out?