Drugs

EU Says The Morning After Pill Is Okay For All Women, But We Should Still Be Made Aware Of The Risks

morning after pill
The European Union says the morning after pill is OK to be taken by women of all sizes. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Unlike the famous birth control pill, the morning after pill is only taken for one reason: to avoid pregnancy. Pharmacists do not discriminate over whether you were drunk, absentminded, or forced to have sex against your will. What they do care about is your body mass, because previous studies have shown overweight can affect the medicine’s effectiveness. A new announcement from the European Union has challenged this accepted belief and could potentially change the way the morning after pill is distributed.

Benefits Outweigh The Risks

There have been clinical studies to suggest that emergency contraceptives, such as the morning after pill, have a reduced effectiveness in women weighing over 165 pounds, Reuters reported. Áine Mac Grory, a pharmacist working in Northern Ireland, explained to Medical Daily how this is due to how weight can affect drug distribution. However, on Thursday the European Medicines Agency announced that due to contrasting evidence both supporting and disproving the claim that weight affects emergency contraceptive’s efficacy, the benefits of overweight women using this medication greatly outweigh the risks. “Women should be reassured that regardless of their body weight, emergency contraceptives can still be used to prevent unintended pregnancy," said Sarah Branch, of Britain's drugs watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.

There’s Always A Risk

Mac Grory explained to Medical Daily how she believes this is a rather bold statement to make. “Regardless of anyone’s body weight, the morning after pill is not guaranteed to protect anyone.” She added that there is always a risk with taking the emergency contraception, but the risk is higher with heavier body weight, and this is something women should be made aware of. “It’s a big asterisk. I’ll give the morning after pill to a heavier woman," Mac Grory said, “but I’ll tell her it may not give you the same effects. Take someone who is 9 stone (126 pounds) and someone who’s 15 stone (210 pounds). There is so much more body to get through. There’s a risk. I would let them know that.”

Many Factors To Consider

It’s not just a woman’s weight that comes into consideration when European pharmacists distribute emergency contraception pills. There are a series of questions that need to be asked, such as "Did you use protection?" or "Are you on the pill?" before it's established if the customer actually needs the morning after pill or not. “As a pharmacist I would also take their height into consideration,” Mac Grory added.

How Does The Morning After Pill Work?

Although there are many different versions of the morning after pill, most work in a similar way by either delaying or inhibiting ovulation, the release of an egg from the ovaries. Without an egg to meet, there is no way for fertilization to occur. The effectiveness of the morning after pill can vary. Some of the most popular versions, which contain levonorgestrel, can be up to 89 percent effective when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex, according to the Planned Parenthood. This effectiveness continues to decrease as time goes on. 

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