Hello again, lovely readers, and welcome to this weeks edition of Mythbustin’ Mondys! This week we’ll be talking about birth control, specifically Plan B versus Ru486, aka the Abortion Pill. There’s been a lot of mystery and controversy surrounding Plan B, and as I sit here watching 16 and Pregnant in the comfort of my living room (what, how do you spend your break?), I can’t help but think about the importance of understanding birth control and birth control options. Let’s being by looking at what traditional birth control does.
In hormonal birth control, the pills contain a small amount of synthetic estrogen and progestin that stop the body from releasing an egg. These hormones also thicken the cervical mucus (hang in there, this should be the only time “cervical mucus” is used in this post), which prevents sperm from entering the uterus. Here’s an artistic rendition:
I would imagine it’s exactly like that. Anyway, these synthetic hormones are taken for three weeks, and on the fourth week placebo pills are taken. The lack of incoming hormones causes you to have your menstrual cycle.
Now, let’s say you’ve been taking the pill regularly, but you forget a few days for one reason or another. Or that you’re taking antibiotics at the same time (because some antibiotics decrease the effectiveness of the pill). Or you were using a condom and it broke. Or you forgot to use protection all together. It might be time to consider Plan B. Taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, Plan B is effective in preventing pregnancy for 7 out of 8 women who would’ve become pregnant without Plan B. It contains the same synthetic progestin as normal birth control, but at a much higher level. It prevents pregnancy through one of three ways:
1) By stopping the egg from leaving the ovary (stopping ovulation)- like in hormonal birth control, if ovulation hasn’t occurred, sperm can’t get to the egg and pregnancy can’t happen.
2) By preventing the union of the sperm and egg (fertilization), or
3) By preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall.
Now, if Plan B is taken after a fertilized egg has implanted in the lining of the uterus, the pill has no effect. I repeat: the pill has no effect on eggs that have been fertilized and implanted. Put simply, this means that Plan B does not cause abortions in any way. If implantation has already happened, Plan B also does not harm the developing embryo. Myth: Busted.
The Abortion Pill, Ru486, is highly effective and significantly less intrusive and painful than surgical abortion, and can be taken within the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. Ru486 is usually taken in combination with misoprostol, which prevents the fertilized egg from implanting and causes the uterus to contract, so an implanted egg gets flushed out of the body. Neither Ru486 nor Plan B should be used as regular birth control, as neither are as effective as hormonal birth control or condoms. Also, condoms are the only form of birth control proven to significantly reduce the risk of passing STDs.
For more information on hormonal birth control, go here.
For more information on Plan B, and to find out where you can get it, go here.
Finally, for more information on contraceptive methods and preventing pregnancy, visit itsyoursexlife.org.
Play safe, everyone!