'Morning After' Pill Doesn't Affect Teen Sexual Behavior

They're not more likely to have unprotected sex with easy access to contraceptive

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FRIDAY, April 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The availability of the "morning after" pill doesn't increase teenagers having unprotected sex, according to a new study.

The University of Pittsburgh study is published in the April issue of the Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology.

The research did find that when emergency contraceptives are readily available, teens are more likely to use them -- and they use them sooner, when they are most effective.

More than 300 females, age 15 to 20, took part in the study. They were educated about emergency contraceptive pills and then received six monthly follow-up phone calls to assess their sexual activity and usage of various types of contraception.

Some of the women received a package of emergency contraceptive pills -- also known as the "morning after" pill -- along with instruction about its use. Other women were given the education only, along with guidelines on how to get the pills if they needed them.

Emergency contraceptive pills can reduce the risk of pregnancy by about 89 percent if taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex.

"At one- and six-month follow-up interviews, there were no differences between the groups in reported unprotected sex within that month," lead author Dr. Melanie A. Gold, associate professor of pediatrics, University Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"Interestingly, at the six-month interview, more of the study participants who had received emergency contraceptive pills reported using condoms during that month," Gold said.

She and her colleagues concluded that the study shows no evidence that providing teens with advance emergency contraception leads them to have more unprotected sex or to be less consistent in their use of contraceptives.

"However, the study does add to the growing body of literature that demonstrates there are no negative behavioral or health ramifications to making emergency contraceptives available outside the confines of a pediatric health care visit," the study authors write.

More information

The National Women's Health Information Center has more about emergency contraception.

SOURCE: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, news release, April 2004

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