Study: Morning after pill use doubles, still low

Jezebel just posted some interesting stats about the “morning after pill,” a little-used birth control option that can prevent pregnancy after an instance of unprotected sex.

Jez says the contraceptive option has been “available in the US since 1999,” but I distinctly recall it being available on my NYC college campus as early as 1998. Still, even over a decade later, many women don’t understand the function or use of the pill sometimes sold under the brand name “Plan B.” Often, the option is confused with the “abortion pill,” a totally different medication with vastly different effects.

According to a recent survey by the Guttmacher Institute, 10% of women have used the high-dose contraceptive pills, up from 4% in 2002. However, low use rates may be down to the fact that information about the contraceptive is still not well distributed:

Guttmacher attributes the rise in use to more media attention, but they found there’s been no change in how often doctors are discussing emergency contraception. In both surveys only 3% of women said they talked about the pills with their doctors, and previous research found that health providers don’t usually bring it up. Of course the 2006 law made it so women over 17 don’t have to talk to their doctors to obtain emergency contraception, but Guttmacher says it should be part of talks women have with their doctors about how to prevent unplanned pregnancy.

The morning after pill must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex to be effective, but the risk of pregnancy increases by 50% after the first 12 hours.