New Options for 'Morning After' Pill

It can be taken up to 120 hours after intercourse

THURSDAY, June 5, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The "morning after pill" -- emergency contraception used after intercourse -- has more options than ever before, say two new reports in the June issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

In the first of two studies conducted by researchers from the United States, England and South Africa, doctors found women can safely increase the time frame in which they use the "morning after pill" -- also known as the "Yuzpe" regimen -- from the normal 72 hours after intercourse to up to 120 hours, and possibly longer.

According to the new research, the failure rate -- 2 percent with perfect use and 2.5 percent with typical use -- was virtually the same when the pills were taken anywhere within this time span. The finding, experts say, may be especially important for rape victims, who often are too distraught or sometimes physically unable to seek medical counseling for several days.

In the researchers' second study, the options of the "morning after pill" were expanded even further. Typically, the "Yuzpe" regimen involves using a specific combination of hormones -- levonoregesterel, a type of synthetic progesterone, and ethinyl estradiol, a synthetic estrogen. Traditionally, one dose is taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, followed by a second pill some 12 hours later.

Focusing on the same group of 111 women used in the first study, the researchers tried randomized treatment to include either a standard two-dose pill regimen, or a two-dose regimen that substituted norethindrone (a different type of synthetic progesterone) for levonoregesterel, or a one-dose regimen of the original formulation.

The result: Perfect use failure rates were nearly identical in all three groups.

Women who took the single-dose treatment reported half the amount of vomiting, a significant side effect with the original two-dose treatment.

The bottom line: The researchers concluded that birth control pills containing the norethindrone-ethinyl combination work as well as the levonoregesterel-ethinyl formulation, that a one-dose regimen works as well as the two-dose formula, and that either treatment is safe and effective when used up to 120 hours following intercourse.

More information

To learn more about birth control pill options, visit Planned Parenthood.

SOURCE: Obstetrics and Gynecology, news release, June 2003
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