When introduced in the 1960s, the birth control pill became a symbol of female liberation

The contraceptive pill made its appearance more than 50 years ago. Emerging during a period of social and political upheaval, it  gave women the possibility to choose how and when to have a family, and to enjoy their sexual life. Thus, it is regarded as one of the greatest scientific inventions of the 20th century and one of the utmost symbols of female liberation.

From the very beginning though, this revolutionary method of contraception has been a source of controversy: some people thought it would create “a society with unbridled sexuality likely to undermine the foundations of the family”; others feared harmful effects and the birth abnormal children.

Fifty years later, the pill remains even more controversial than before and -paradoxically enough- more and more women are “liberating” from their “liberator”: the pill’s popularity is on the decline, a trend observed in many countries. The reasons behind this shift are many, but fear of side effects seems to the most recurrent. Arguably the web and social media, with the spread of countless personal stories with dramatic headlines and numerous pill scares have influenced women’s perception on the pill’s risks. But are these fears legitimate? How dangerous is the contraceptive pill? What is true and what is false?

Let’s see what science answers to the pill’s most common assumptions…

1) The pill harms your future fertility

FALSE. All scientific evidence agrees that hormonal contraceptives do not make women sterile in the long run. Sometimes it may take three to six cycles for fertility to fully return, but within a year after going off the pill, women trying to conceive are as likely to get pregnant (80%) as those who were never on the pill. In certain cases of long-term use, there may be even increased likelihood of pregnancy within 6-12 months after discontinuing it.

Moreover, hormonal birth control may preserve fertility by offering protection against pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cysts, ovarian and uterine cancer (see below).

2) The pill reduces sexual desire

MOSTLY FALSE. In most cases, birth control pills don’t affect libido (sexual desire): out of 10 women taking the pill, 7  experience no change in their sex drive, 2 observe increased libido, and 1 will feel less desire.

Recently, a study provided evidence that the pill does not kill desirecontextual factors, such as the relationship with the partner, stress, fatigue, family problems, recent childbirth, have a more considerable impact on sexual drive than the type of contraception used.

3) The pill makes you fat

MOSTLY FALSE. A recent extensive review study showed no evidence that birth control pills cause weight gain in most women. Although some persons may gain some weight when they start taking it, it’s often a temporary side effect due to fluid retention, not extra fat. And, like most side effects, it usually goes away within 2 to 3 months.

A woman’s weight may fluctuate naturally due to changes in age or life circumstances. Because changes in weight are common, many times they will wrongly attribute their weight gain or loss to the use of the pill.

4) The pill increases the risk of blood clots

TRUE. From the 1960s it is known that combined contraceptives pills may increase the risk of venous thrombosis, that is, a blood clot obstructing a vein, a serious and potentially life-threatening complication. Combined contraceptives contain synthetic versions of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is the estrogen that is mostly associated with the formation of blood clots, but the latest years it became evident that the type of progesterone also influences the risk. Indeed, the most “modern” formulations of the combined pill – the so-called third and fourth generation – containing the synthetic progesterones gestodene, desogestrel and drospirenone are associated with higher risk of thrombosis.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) provides the following values ​​for the incidence (frequency) of deep vein thrombosis in 100,000 women of childbearing age:

  • 5 to 10 in non-pregnant women who do not use oral contraceptives,
  • 20 for women using a second generation combination pill (containing levonorgestrel),
  • 40 among women taking third and fourth generation pill.

Factors that may increase the risk of thrombosis are smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, age over 35 years, and a family or personal history of vascular accidents.

Although these figures may look scary, they should be analyzed in perspective:

  • In absence of risk factors, the absolute risk of thrombosis is very low.
  • The mortality rate of clotting events is about 1%. Thus, the odds of dying as a result of having a clot attributable to the use of the pill would be about 2 to 4 per million women.
  • The risk remains considerably lower than that related to pregnancy and birth (estimated  1 in 1000- 2000 deliveries).
  • Indicative of this is the 1995 pill scare in the UK, when a warning was issued on the increased risk of thrombosis related to third generation pills. This led many women coming off the pill, resulting in 12,400 additional births and a 9% abortions rise in 1996.

Overall, the odds of having a thrombotic episode related to the pill are very low, in particular with combined pills containing low dose of estrogen (30 or less micrograms) and old-generation progesterone (such as levonorgestrel).

The minipill, also known as the progestin-only birth control pill, is a form of oral contraception that does not contain estrogen, and its progestin dose is lower than that in the combined formulation. Although its efficacy is slightly reduced as compared to the combined pill, the minipill does not increase the risk of venous thromboembolism or arterial thrombotic accidents (see below).

5) The pill increases the risk of heart attack and stroke

TRUE. An extensive review study looking at arterial vascular accidents attributed to the pill (myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke) showed that the overall risk of arterial thrombosis was 60% increased in women using oral contraceptive pills compared to non-users. Unlike venous thrombosis, the risk did not vary according to the type of synthetic progesterone. However, it was twice as high in women taking pills with higher doses of estrogen (the older formulations of contraceptive pills).

Therefore, the combined pill containing levonorgestrel and low dose estrogen (no more than 30 µg) is the safest oral form of hormonal contraception. The minipill may also be considered in high risk women (see above).

6) A woman should not take the pill if she smokes

TRUE.  There is some evidence that smoking may decrease the effectiveness of hormonal birth control. When taking the pill, smokers experience more frequently irregular bleeding than non-smokers; this could signal that the efficacy of the pill is lowered, but more research needs to be conducted to better understand the effect of smoking on the pill’s action.

But what we do know for sure is that smokers who take combined oral contraceptives have increased risk of venous thrombosis and heart disease (see above). This risk is higher for women that smoke more than 15 cigarettes/day, are older than 35 years old or take formulations with high estrogen levels.

If you are under 35 years old and smoke, you should be extremely careful about using the pill, and the decision to take it should be individualized considering other risk factors such as personal and familiar history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease. Smokers aged 35 or over should not take the combined contraceptive pill.

If you smoke you may opt for the mini pill, which does not seem to increase the risk of venous thromboembolism or arterial thrombotic accidents; otherwise you should discuss with your doctor about another contraceptive method, such as the intra-uterine device (IUD).

7) The pill causes mood changes and depression

DEBATABLE. Most studies have shown no effect of the pill on depression and mood changes; some studies have even found a protective effect. In 2016, an extensive review on hormonal contraception and mood changes confirmed the existing evidence, and concluded that “… negative mood changes are infrequent and combined hormonal contraception may be prescribed with confidence”.

However, a recent publication came to challenge this assertion. Danish researchers went through the health records of more than a million women using hormonal contraception. They found that those on the combined pill were 23% more likely to be prescribed an antidepressant than those not on hormonal contraception. For those on the minipill (and on other progesterone-only methods, including the hormonal IUD), the figure rose to 34%. It increased even further, to 80% more likely, for girls 15 to 19 years old on the combined pill.

There are a few important points to consider about these results:

  • Depression is a complex condition whose cause is still poorly understood. Several factors seem to play a role: genetic, environmental, psychological and social. Therefore, it is very difficult to evaluate the link between depression and hormonal contraception.
  • The Danish study does not prove that hormones are responsible for the depression – “association” does not necessarily translate into “causation”.
  • The risk of being diagnosed with depression peaks at two to three months of contraceptive use, but then begins to fall.
  •  Even if these findings are confirmed, the number of affected women remains small: 2.2 out of 100 women who use hormonal birth control develop depression, compared to 1.7 out of 100 non-users.

In conclusion, the pill may have impact on some women’s emotions, but further research is needed to establish whether hormonal contraceptives are indeed the cause of depression and mood changes.

8) The pill is 100% reliable

FALSE. Theoretically, with perfect use, the pill is 99.7% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy. However, there are many factors that may interfere with the pill’s level of effectiveness: forgetting to take it, not taking it as directed, certain medications or medical problems…Therefore, when it comes to real life, the pill is about 92% effective: about 8 in 100 women using the combined pill will get pregnant in a year.

In any case, the birth control pill remains one of the most reliable contraceptive methods.

9) If you take the pill you don’t need the condom

FALSE. A survey conducted in France showed that “…one in ten young women 15 to 20 years old is not aware that the pill does not protect against HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI)”. As stated before, the pill is a very good at preventing unwanted pregnancy but it offers no STI protection at all. In fact, the only contraceptive method that protects against sexually transmitted infections is the condom. Read more here.

10) The pill causes cancer

TRUE AND FALSE. The pill seems to increase the risk of certain cancers, but it protects again others. Overall, with the use of oral contraceptives the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer is reduced, whereas the risk of breast and cervical cancer appears to be increased.

The protective effect on ovarian and endometrial cancer (the lining of the uterus) has been consistently demonstrated in many studies. This effect increases with the length of time oral contraceptives are used and continues for many years after a woman stops using the pill.

Long-term use of oral contraceptives is associated with an increased risk of cervical cancer. This correlation is not completely understood, as virtually all cervical cancers are caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). It has been suggested that women who use the pill may be less likely to use condoms, therefore increasing their risk of being exposed to HPV.

An extensive analysis of more than 70 studies suggested an increased risk of breast cancer among current and recent users of hormonal contraception. The risk was highest for women who started using oral contraceptives as teenagers. However, by 10 years after cessation of use, their risk was similar to that in women who had never used it.

Since most studies so far have evaluated birth control pill older formulations with higher doses of hormones, until recently it was assumed that the newer-generation pills available now would be safer regarding breast cancer risk. Yet a new study from Denmark found that even with the current pills, hormonal contraception users experienced a 20% increase in the risk of breast cancer compared to non-users; the odds rose among women who used hormones for more than 10 years. The risk was similar in magnitude to that of older pill types.

Whether oral contraceptive use increases the risk of liver cancer is not clear: while some studies found more cases of hepatocellular carcinoma ( a type of liver cancer) in women who took the pill for more than 5 years, others did not confirm this correlation.

Hormonal contraception seems to have a protective effect on colo-rectal (bowel) cancer, but this has not been yet consistently proven.

Since the pill seems to reduce the frequency of certain cancers and increase the risk of others, an interesting question arises: Does the pill increase the overall risk of cancer? The answer is NO. A recently published study provided epidemiological data on more than 40,000 women followed for more than 40 years. The results showed that users of oral contraceptives are protected from colo-rectal, endometrial, and ovarian cancer; this beneficial effect lasts for many years after stopping the pill. An increased breast and cervical cancer risk was seen in current and recent users, which appears to be lost within approximately 5 years of stopping oral contraception, with no evidence of either cancer recurring at increased risk in ever users with time. These results are reassuring and provide strong evidence that most women do not expose themselves to long-term cancer harm if they choose to use oral contraception; indeed, many are likely to be protected.

11) The pill has many bothersome side effects

TRUE AND FALSE. Some women refuse to take the pill because they fear certain annoying symptoms. Indeed, the birth control pill is a medication, and as such, it has possible side effects.

The most common adverse reactions associated with use of combined contraceptives include changes in bleeding patterns, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, missed periods, vaginal discharge and visual changes with contact lenses; few women may also experience changes in sexual desire and mood changes, or temporary weight gain related to fluid retention (see above). In general, these side effects are not a sign of illness, and usually stop within the first few months of using the pill.

While some women may experience bothersome symptoms, the pill provides important non-contraceptive health benefits:

  • Decreased risk of certain cancers (see above)
  • Improved bone mineral density (in older women)
  • Protection against pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Prevention of ovarian cysts
  • Reduction of menstrual bleeding problems
  • Prevention of menstrual migraines (with non-stop formulations)
  • Protection against iron-deficiency anemia
  • Reduction of ovulation pain
  • Treatment of acne
  • Treatment of bleeding from fibroids
  • Treatment of dysmenorrhea (painful periods)
  • Treatment of excess hair on face or body
  • Treatment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Reduction of endometriosis symptoms
  • Reduction of polycystic ovarian syndrome symptoms
  • Induction of amenorrhea for lifestyle considerations (when you need to stop your period for a while; you can also advance or delay your period with the pill)

So, how dangerous is the pill?

There is no perfect contraception method. I wish there were. And it is true that hormonal contraception, like any other medication, may have annoying side effects and serious health risks. Does it mean that no one should take the pill? Of course not!

We should keep in mind that severe risks are very rare and most bothersome symptoms are short-lived; in addition, the pill offers many non-contraceptive health benefits. But when discussing about the pill’s pros and cons, sometimes we forget a very important issue: the birth control pill is one of the most effective contraceptive methods. And effective birth control prevents from unwanted pregnancy, which may have not only devastating psychological consequences, but may also lead to severe physical harm.

Therefore, the potential problems of the birth control pill should be analyzed in perspective: we shouldn’t just pay attention to downsides, forgetting to place them in context with the upsides. Every woman considering taking the pill should thoroughly discuss with her healthcare provider not only the possible risks, but also its significant benefits, which for many women will be greater than the harms.


Photo credits

Heading: vintag.es; 1: thebump.com; 2: breakingmuscle.com; 3: thejewel.com; 4: health.harvard.edu; 5: newhealthadvisor.com; 6: pinterest.com; 7: pinterest.com; 8: pinterest.com; 9: blog.path.org; 10: purelyb.com; 11: buzzfeed.com; Conclusion: bigthink.com


Ενημερώθηκε 5 Φεβρουαρίου 2018Morning after pill“Το χάπι της επόμενης μέρας είναι επικίνδυνο”. “Δεν μπορείς να το πάρεις περισσότερο από μία ή δύο φορές στη ζωή σου”. “Εάν το πάρεις δεν θα μπορέσεις να κάνεις παιδιά”…

Πιθανόν να έχεις ακούσει αυτές τις φήμες για το χάπι της επόμενης μέρας και, σε περίπτωση “ατυχήματος”, να βρεθείς σε δίλημμα: να το πάρω ή όχι; Είναι πράγματι επικίνδυνο; Η αλήθεια είναι πως το χάπι της επόμενης ημέρας χρησιμοποιείται εδώ και πάνω από 40 χρόνια, αλλά ακόμα και τώρα εξακολουθεί να υπάρχει αμφισβήτηση και παραπληροφόρηση σχετικά με την χρήση του.

Σκοπός αυτού του άρθρου είναι να διαχωρίσουμε την αλήθεια από το μύθο γύρο από το χάπι της επόμενης μέρας, έτσι ώστε να καταλάβεις και εσύ πότε και αν μπορείς να το πάρεις…

Τι είναι το χάπι της επόμενης μέρας;

Emergency contraception by doctor emergency-contraception_171x200_M9201502

Το χάπι της επόμενης μέρας (ΧΕΜ) είναι μια μορφή επείγουσας αντισύλληψης που θα σε αποτρέψει από το να μείνεις έγκυος μετά από μια σεξουαλική επαφή χωρίς προφύλαξη, ή εάν ένα προφυλακτικό έσπασε κατά τη διάρκεια της συνουσίας.

Στις περισσότερες χώρες, υπάρχουν δύο τύποι επείγουσας αντισύλληψης από το στόμα:

-Ένα που περιέχει λεβονοργεστρέλη (LNG: Norlevo ή Postinor στην Ελλάδα και Γαλλία, Levonelle στη Αγγλία, Plan Β στις Ηνωμένες Πολιτείες)

-Άλλο ένα που περιέχει ulipristal acetate (EllaOne).

Σε πολλές χώρες, όπως στο Ηνωμένο Βασίλειο, στη Γαλλία, στις ΗΠΑ, μπορείς να το προμηθευτείς χωρίς ιατρική συνταγή.

Πώς δουλεύει; Είναι αλήθεια πως προκαλεί έκτρωση;

Το χάπι της επόμενης μέρας αποτρέπει την εγκυμοσύνη με το να εμποδίσει προσωρινά το αυγό να απελευθερωθεί (δηλαδή, αναστέλλει την ωορρηξία). Επιπλέον, μπορεί να εμποδίσει τη γονιμοποίηση. Μερικοί άνθρωποι φοβούνται πως το ΧΕΜ μπορεί να αποτρέψει ένα γονιμοποιημένο ωάριο από το να εμφυτευτεί στη μήτρα, το οποίο θα μπορούσε να θεωρηθεί ως μια πρόωρη άμβλωση. Πρόσφατες μελέτες έχουν δείξει ότι αυτό το φάρμακο δεν είναι αποτελεσματικό όταν έχει ήδη συμβεί η ωορρηξία, έτσι δεν φαίνεται να εμποδίζει την εμφύτευση και συνεπώς δεν προκαλεί αποβολή. Επιπλέον, στην περίπτωση που η εμφύτευση έχει ήδη συμβεί πριν παρθεί, το χάπι της επόμενης μέρας δεν προκαλεί έκτρωση.

Πρέπει να το πάρω αμέσως;

Στην πραγματικότητα η ονομασία “χάπι της επόμενης μέρας” είναι λίγο παραπλανητική: μπορείς να το πάρεις μέχρι και πέντε ημέρες μετά την απροστάτευτη σεξουαλική επαφή. Μέχρι πρόσφατα, η σήσταση ήταν ότι τα χάπια που περιέχουν λεβονοργεστρέλη (Norlevo, Postinor) έπρεπε να ληφθούν εντός 72 ωρών (τριών ημερών) μετά το “ατύχημα”. Ωστόσο, πρόσφατα στοιχεία δείχνουν ότι τα χάπια αυτά εξακολουθούν να είναι αρκετά αποτελεσματικά ακόμα και αν παρθούν μεταξύ 72 και 120 ωρών. Ως εκ τούτου, τα χάπια Norlevo και Postinor μπορεί να ληφθούν έως και πέντε ημέρες μετά την επαφή χωρίς προστασία. Το ίδιο ισχύει και για την EllaOne: μπορεί να χρησιμοποιηθεί με ασφάλεια μέχρι και πέντε ημέρες μετά το μη προστατευμένο σεξ.

Αλλά όσο πιο γρήγορα το πάρεις, τόσο πιο αποτελεσματικό είναι (βλέπε παρακάτω).

Είναι αποτελεσματικό;

Emergency contraception uhoh_poster_collage

Το χάπι της επόμενης ημέρας δεν είναι 100% αποτελεσματικό, αλλά το ποσοστό αποτυχίας είναι αρκετά χαμηλό. Όπως είπαμε, όποιο χάπι και να χρησιμοποίησεις,  θα πρέπει να το πάρεις όσο το δυνατόν συντομότερα μετά την σεξουαλική επαφή χωρίς προφύλαξη. Αν παίρνεις το χάπι με LNG εντός του πρώτου 24ωρου μετά τη σεξουαλική επαφή, θα ελαττώνεται η πιθανότητα εγκυμοσύνης έως και 95%, η αποτελεσματικότητα μειώνεται τόσο περισσότερο θα καθυστερήσεις την λήψη του χαπιού, περίπου στο 85% την 2η μέρα, 60% την τρίτη ημέρα. Πρόσφατες μελέτες επιβεβαίωσαν ότι το EllaOne είναι πιο αποτελεσματικό από το χάπι LNG, όχι μόνο όταν λαμβάνεται 3-5 ημέρες μετά από μια μη προστατευμένη επαφή, αλλά ακόμα και αν το παίρνεις μέσα στις πρώτες τρεις ημέρες.

Θα έχω σοβαρές παρενέργειες;

Τα χάπια επείγουσας αντισύλληψης είναι πολύ ασφαλή: η χρήση του δεν έχει ποτέ συνδεθεί με θανάτους ή σοβαρές επιπλοκές. Επιπλέον, δεν βλάπτουν τη μελλοντική γονιμότητα. Γενικά, οι παρενέργειες είναι σπάνιες και συνήθως ήπιες, οι πιο συχνές είναι ναυτία, εμετό και ανωμαλίες του κύκλου (η περίοδος μπορεί να έρθει νωρίτερα, αργότερα, με περισσότερο ή λιγότερο αίμα από το συνηθισμένο). Άλλες πιο σπάνιες παρενέργειες είναι κούραση, ευαισθησία στο στήθος, κεφαλαλγία και κοιλιακό άλγος.

Υπάρχει κάποια διαφωνία ως προς το αν το ΧΕΜ σχετίζεται με αυξημένο κίνδυνο εξωμήτριας κύησης (μια εγκυμοσύνη έξω από τη μήτρα, συνήθως μέσα στην σάλπιγγα). Τα διαθέσιμα στοιχεία υποδηλώνουν πως το ΧΕΜ δεν αυξάνει την πιθανότητα εξωμήτριας κύησης. Επιπλέον, όπως όλες οι μέθοδοι αντισύλληψης, το ΧΕΜ μειώνει τον απόλυτο κίνδυνο έκτοπης κύησης επειδή μειώνει της πιθανότητας εγκυμοσύνης.

Υπάρχει κάποιο όριο στον αριθμό των φορών που μπορώ να το πάρω;

Emergency contraception womant taking 47929

Έχει υπονοηθεί (ως επί το πλείστον από φήμες στο διαδίκτυο) ότι είναι επικίνδυνο να πάρεις το ΧΕΜ περισσότερο από μία ή δύο φορές στη ζωή σου. Κάτωθι είναι ένα απόσπασμα από την ιστοσελίδα της Παγκόσμιας Οργάνωσης Υγείας (ΠΟΥ), το οποίο ρίχνει φως σε αυτό το θέμα:

“Δεν υπάρχουν περιορισμοί στις ενδείξεις για την χρήση του χαπιού επείγουσας αντισύλληψης. Ωστόσο, ορισμένες γυναίκες το χρησιμοποιούν επανειλημμένα (…) ως κύρια μέθοδο αντισύλληψης. Σε τέτοιες περιπτώσεις, πρέπει να δοθεί περαιτέρω συμβουλευτική σχετικά με επιλογές αντισυλληπτικών που πιθανόν να είναι πιο κατάλληλες και αποτελεσματικές. Η συχνή και επαναλαμβανόμενη χρήση του ΧΕΜ μπορεί να είναι επιβλαβής για γυναίκες με ορισμένες καταστάσεις που ταξινομούνται στην κατηγορία 2, 3 ή 4 βάση των κριτήριων ιατρικής επιλεξιμότητας (MEC) για συνδυασμένη ορμονική αντισύλληψη ή αντισύλληψη που εμπεριέχει μόνο προγεστερόνη (POC). Η συχνή χρήση της επείγουσας αντισύλληψης μπορεί να οδηγήσει σε αυξημένες παρενέργειες, όπως ανωμαλίες της εμμήνου ρύσεως, αν και η επαναλαμβανόμενη χρήση τους δεν προκαλεί γνωστούς κινδύνους για την υγεία”.

Με άλλα λόγια, δεν πρέπει να πάρεις το ΧΕΜ πολύ συχνά, διότι: 1) καλύτερα να πάρεις τα κανονικά αντισυλληπτικά χάπια που θα σε προστατεύουν πιο αποτελεσματικά από μια ανεπιθύμητη εγκυμοσύνη, 2) μπορεί να προκαλέσει κάποιες ανωμαλίες της περιόδου… αλλά στις περισσότερες γυναίκες, το χάπι της επόμενης μέρας ΔΕΝ είναι επικίνδυνο! 3) αν έχεις σοβαρά προβλήματα υγείας, όπως ιστορικό εγκεφαλικού επεισοδίου, θρόμβους αίματος, κάποιες μορφές καρκίνου κ.λπ., είναι ιδιαίτερα σημαντικό να αποφεύγεις τη συχνή και επαναλαμβανόμενη χρήση του ΧΕΜ.

Μάλιστα, το Βασιλικό Κολέγιο Μαιευτήρων και Γυναικολόγων επισημάνει ότι το χάπι με LNG μπορεί να χρησιμοποιηθεί ακόμα και περισσότερο από μία φορά στον ίδιο κύκλο. Ωστόσο, δεν συνιστά τη λήψη του EllaOne με αυτόν τον τρόπο, διότι, επειδή είναι ένα νεότερο φάρμακο, δεν έχουμε αρκετά στοιχεία για την επαναλαμβανόμενη χρήση στον ίδιο κύκλο (αν και πρόσφατες μελέτες δείχνουν ότι μπορεί να χρησιμοποιηθεί με ασφάλεια περισσότερο από μία φορά ανά κύκλο).

Αν παίρνεις το ΧΕΜ πολύ συχνά, μάλλον δεν έχεις βρει ακόμη μια τακτική μέθοδο αντισύλληψης που είναι κατάλληλη για σένα. Σε αυτή την περίπτωση, μίλησε με το γιατρό σου σχετικά με άλλες επιλογές αντισύλληψης.

Αν αποτύχει το ΧΕΜ και μείνω έγκυος, θα επηρεάσει το αγέννητο μωρό μου;

Τα χάπια με LNG χρησιμοποιούνται εδώ και πολλά χρόνια, και τα στοιχεία δείχνουν ότι δεν υπάρχει αυξημένος κίνδυνος ανωμαλιών ή άλλων επιπτώσεων στο μωρό. Νέα δεδομένα υποστηρίζουν ότι το Ellaone είναι εξίσου ασφαλές με το χάπι με LNG και δεν έχουν αναφερθεί μέχρι στιγμής γεννητικές ανωμαλίες.

Μπορώ να πάρω το ΧΕΜ αν θηλάσω;

Μπορείς να πάρεις με ασφάλεια το χάπι με LNG εάν θηλάζεις. Οι νέες  κατευθυντήριες οδηγίες αναφέρουν ότι ούτε το ellaOne δεν αντενδείκνυται για τις γυναίκες που θηλάζουν, αλλά το μητρικό γάλα δεν θα πρέπει να χορηγείται στα βρέφη για μία εβδομάδα αφού η γυναίκα έχει πάρει το χάπι.

Μερικές επισημάνσεις ακόμη…

  • Emergency contraception keep-calm-and-take-the-morning-after-pill-7Το ΧΕΜ θα σε προστατεύσει από μια ανεπιθύμητη εγκυμοσύνη, αλλά δεν θα παρέχει καμία προστασία από τα σεξουαλικώς μεταδιδόμενα νοσήματα. Είναι πολύ σημαντικό να είσαι ενήμερη για τις ασφαλείς σεξουαλικές πρακτικές και να τις εφαρμόσεις στις σχέσεις σου.
  •  Υπάρχουν κάποιες ενδείξεις ότι το χάπι με LNG μπορεί να είναι λιγότερο αποτελεσματικό σε γυναίκες με βάρος 75kg ή περισσότερο, ενώ η αποτελεσματικότητα του EllaOne δεν φαίνεται να επηρεάζεται από το σωματικό βάρος. Έτσι, αν είσαι άνω των 75 kg, θα ήταν καλύτερο να προτιμήσεις το EllaOne.
  • Η αποτελεσματικότητα του ΧΕΜ μειώνεται αν κάνεις εμετό αμέσως μετά τη λήψη του. Συνεπώς, εάν κάνεις εμετό μέσα σε 2 ώρες από τη λήψη του χαπιού με LNG, ή μέσα σε 3 ώρες από τη λήψη του EllaOne, θα πρέπει να το ξαναπάρεις.
  • Αντενδείξεις: σύμφωνα με την ΠΟΥ: «Δεν υπάρχουν ιατρικές αντενδείξεις για τη χρήση των χαπιών επείγουσας αντισύλληψης με λεβονοργεστρέλης». Ορισμένοι ειδικοί συμβουλεύουν κατά της χρήσης τους σε γυναίκες με σοβαρή ηπατική νόσο.
  • Αλληλεπιδράσεις με άλλα φάρμακα: ορισμένα φάρμακα ενδέχεται να μειώσουν την αποτελεσματικότητα του ΧΕΜ: Saint John’s wort, βαρβιτουρικά, ριφαμπικίνη, μεταξύ άλλων. Να συμβουλευτείς το γιατρό σου εάν λαμβάνεις κάποια από αυτά τα φάρμακα.
  • Πότε πρέπει να δεις το γιατρό σου: αν και το ΧΕΜ μπορεί να καθυστερήσει την περίοδο, επικοινώνησε με το γιατρό σου αν η περίοδος δεν έχει έρθει μερικές ημέρες μετά από την προβλεπόμενη ημερομηνία. Επίσης, είναι πολύ σημαντικό να δεις το γιατρό σου αμέσως εάν έχεις ακανόνιστη αιμορραγία και πόνος στην κοιλιά, για να αποκλειστεί το ενδεχόμενο μίας εξωμήτριας κύησης.

Εν κατακλείδι:

Emergency contraception plan B 1258645.large

Το χάπι επείγουσας αντισύλληψης είναι μια ασφαλής και αποτελεσματική μέθοδος αντισύλληψης. Οι περισσότερες από τις φήμες που μπορεί να έχεις ακούσει γι ‘αυτό είναι αβάσιμες.

Τούτου λεχθέντος, δεν πρέπει να γίνεται κατάχρηση.

Η (πολύ έξυπνη) εμπορική ονομασία του ΧΕΜ στις ΗΠΑ, Plan B (Σχέδιο Β), υποδηλώνει ακριβώς πως πρέπει να χρησιμοποιηθεί αυτό το φάρμακο: ως μια εναλλακτική επιλογή, όταν το Σχέδιο Α (δηλαδή η κανονική αντισύλληψη) απέτυχε … ή δεν υπήρχε.

Σχετικό άρθρο:

Αντισύλληψη: 14 μύθοι που πρέπει να σταματήσεις να πιστεύεις


World Health Organization: Emergency Contraception. Fact sheet N°244  June 2017

Trussell J, Raymond E, Cleland K; Emergency Contraception: A Last Chance to Prevent Unintended Pregnancy. November 2017



UPDATED JANUARY 2018Morning after pill

“The morning after pill is dangerous”. “You can’t take it more than once or twice in your lifetime”. “If you take it you won’t be able to become pregnant in the future”…

You may have heard all these rumours about the morning after pill and, in case “an accident” happens, you will think twice whether to take it or not… The truth is, the morning after pill has been around for more that 40 years now, but still many misconceptions and controversies persist.

In this article we will try to sort fact from fiction regarding the morning after pill in order to help you make your educated decision…

What is the morning after pill?

Emergency contraception by doctor emergency-contraception_171x200_M9201502The morning after pill, or post-coital pill is a form of emergency contraception that will prevent you from becoming pregnant after an unprotected intercourse, or if a condom breaks during intercourse.

In most countries, there are two types of emergency contraception pills (ECP):

-one containing levonorgestrel (LNG: Norlevo, Levonelle, Plan B, in different countries)

-another containing ulipristal acetate (ella in the USA, EllaOne in Europe).

In many countries such as the UK, France, USA, you may be able to get it (just LNG or both of them) without a prescription.

-When these ECPs are not available, certain ordinary birth control pills can be used as emergency contraception. The regimen is one dose of 4 to 6 pills -depending on the brand- followed by a second dose 12 hours later (the Yuzpe regimen, read more here). If you choose this method, though, it may be a good idea to talk to a health care provider for guidance.

Mifepristone is another highly effective emergency contraception method, available in few countries. However, this medication is also used to induce medical abortion, which may limit its widespread acceptability for use as ECP.

How does it work? Does it cause abortion?

The morning after pill prevents pregnancy by temporarily blocking the egg from being released (that is, inhibits ovulation). In addition, it may stop fertilization. Some people are concerned that the ECP may prevent a fertilised egg from becoming implanted in the uterus, which may be considered as an early abortion. Recent studies have shown that this medication is not effective when ovulation has already occurred, thus it does not seem to prevent implantation. Furthermore, in case an implantation has already occurred before you took it, the morning after pill will not provoke an abortion.

Do I have to take it right away?

Actually “morning after” is a bit of a misnomer: you can take ECP up to five days following unprotected sex. 

Until recently, it was accepted that pills containing LNG (Norlevo, Levonelle, Plan B) should be taken within 72 hours (three days) after the “accident”. However, recent evidence shows that LNG pills continue to be moderately effective if started between 72 and 120 hours; therefore LNG ECP can be taken up to five days after unprotected intercourse.The same is true for EllaOne/ella: it can be safely used up to five days after non-protected sex.

But the sooner you take it, the more effective it is (see below).

Is it effective?

Emergency contraception uhoh_poster_collageNeither type of morning-after pill is 100 per cent effective, but the failure rate is quite low. Like we said, you should take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex, no matter which pill you use. If you take LNG pills within the first 24 hours after sex, they reduce your risk of pregnancy by up to 95%; the efficacy will be reduced the more you delay the ingestion of the pill, roughly to 85% the 2nd day, 60% the third day.

Recent studies have confirmed that EllaOne/ella is more effective than the LNG pill, not only when taken 3-5 days after an unprotected intercourse, but also within the first three days.

Will I get severe side effects?

Emergency contraception pills are very safe: no deaths or serious complications have been ever linked to their use. Moreover, emergency contraception pills do not harm future fertility.

In general, side effects are uncommon and generally mild: the most common are nausea, vomits and menstrual abnormalities (your period may come earlier, later, with more or less blood than usual); more rare side effects are fatigue, breast tenderness, headache and abdominal pain.

There is some controversy as to whether the morning after pill is associated with an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside the uterus, usually inside the fallopian tube). Available evidence suggests that ECP do not increase the chance of ectopic pregnancy; moreover, like all contraceptive methods, they reduce the absolute risk of ectopic pregnancy by preventing pregnancy in general.

Is there any limit to the number of times I can take it?

Emergency contraception womant taking 47929

It has been suggested (mostly by internet rumours) that it could be dangerous to take the ECP more than one or twice in your life. The following is an excerpt from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) site which throws light on this subject:

“There are no restrictions for the medical eligibility of who can use ECPs. Some women, however, use ECPs repeatedly (…) as their main method of contraception. In such situations, further counselling needs to be given on what other and more regular contraceptive options may be more appropriate and more effective. Frequent and repeated ECP use may be harmful for women with conditions classified as medical eligibility criteria (MEC) category 2, 3,or 4 for combined hormonal contraception or Progestin-only contraceptives (POC). Frequent use of emergency contraception can result in increased side-effects, such as menstrual irregularities, although their repeated use poses no known health risks”.

In other words, you shouldn’t take the ECP very often because: 1) you’d rather take the regular contraceptive pills and you will be better protected from unwanted pregnancy; 2) you may get some abnormal periods, BUT IN MOST WOMEN, ECP ARE NOT DANGEROUS! 3) in case you have a severe health problems such as history of stroke, blood clots, certain cancers, etc, then you should avoid frequent and repeat use.

In fact, the Royal College of Obstetricians, says that the LNG pill can be used even more than once in the same cycle. However, it does not recommend taking EllaOne in this way because, being a newer medication, we have not enough evidence for repeated use in the same cycle (although recent evidence indicates that it can be safely used more than once per cycle).

If you find yourself using the morning after pill very often, it might mean that you haven’t yet found a regular method of birth control that works for you. In that case, talk to your doctor about some of your other options.

If ECP fails and I get pregnant, will it affect my unborn baby?

LNG has been used for many years, and evidence shows that there is no increased risk of birth defects or other effects on the baby; new data supports that Ellaone/ella is as safe as LNG and no birth defects have been reported so far.

Can I take ECP if I breastfeed?

You may safely take the LNG pill if you are breastfeeding. Although EllaOne was not recommended during lactation until recently, updated guidelines state that ellaOne is not contraindicated for breastfeeding women, but that breastmilk should not be given to a baby for 24 hours (in the USA guidelines) or one week (in Europe) after a woman has taken the product.

Some final warnings…

  • Emergency contraception keep-calm-and-take-the-morning-after-pill-7The ECP will protect you from an unwanted pregnancy, but it will not provide any protection from sexually transmitted diseases. It is very important that you are aware of safe sexual practices and  incorporate them into your relationships.
  • There is some evidence that the LNG pill might be less effective in women weighting 75kg or more, while the efficacy of EllaOne does not seem to be affected by body weight. Thus, if you are over 75 kg you may prefer to take EllaOne.
  • The efficacy of the ECP will be decreased if you vomit after taking it. If you vomit within 2 hours of taking LNG pill, or 3 hours of taking EllaOne, you will need to take it again.
  • Contraindications: according to the WHO: “There are no medical contraindications to the use of levonorgestrel emergency contraception pills”. Some experts advise against its use in women with severe liver disease.
  • Interaction with other medications: some medications may eventually reduce the effectiveness of the ECP: Saint John’s wort, barbiturates, rifampicin, among others.
  • When to see your doctor: although the ECP may delay your period, contact you doctor if your period doesn’t come some days after the expected time. Likewise, it’s very important that you see your doctor right away if you have irregular bleeding and abdominal pain, to rule out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy.

The bottom line:

Emergency contraception plan B 1258645.largeThe emergency contraception pill is a safe and effective method of contraception. Most of the rumours you may have heard  about it, are unfounded.

Having said that, it should not be abused.

The (very clever) brand name of the ECP in the USA, Plan B, indicates clearly how this medication should be used: as an option when your plan A (your regular contraception) failed…or wasn’t there.

Related reading:

Contraception: 14 common myths – busted

Fact or myth? Truths, half-truths and misconceptions about the Birth Control Pill


World Health Organization: Emergency Contraception. Fact sheet N°244  June 2017

Trussell J, Raymond E, Cleland K; Emergency Contraception: A Last Chance to Prevent Unintended Pregnancy. November 2017