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The morning-after pill without a prescription. How it works? How does it differ from the abortion pill?

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The Sejm adopted an amendment to the act on emergency contraception, i.e. the so-called “morning-after pill”. According to the regulations contained therein, it is to be available without a prescription for people over 15 years of age. What are morning after pills and how do they work? How do they differ from abortion pills? In an interview with tvn24.pl, gynecologist Grzegorz Mrugacz, MD, explains this.

On Thursday’s meeting, 421 MPs voted on the amendment to the act on emergency contraception, i.e. the so-called “morning-after pill”. The vote was 224 in favor and 196 against. One person abstained. Thus, the Sejm adopted an amendment to the Pharmaceutical Law. According to the regulations contained therein, emergency contraception in the form of the so-called “morning-after” pill is to be available without a prescription for people over 15 years of age. What are morning after pills? How do they differ from abortion pills that enable medical abortion?

SEE ALSO: Hołownia after the vote on the morning-after pill: please do not mock PiS MPs

The morning-after pill – what is it?

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The morning-after pill is a type of emergency contraception, i.e. used in exceptional situations. Its purpose is to prevent pregnancy. It prevents this by “causing changes in the uterine mucosa, preventing the embryo from implanting in the uterus” – explains Grzegorz Mrugacz, MD.

According to the assumptions, the morning-after pill is used after unprotected intercourse or when another method of contraception has failed. If taken correctly, it has an effectiveness of 97-99%. However, for the health of women taking them, they cannot be used as a permanent, regularly used method of preventing pregnancy. As the gynecologist points out, taking the morning-after pill is “tantamount to taking a fairly large dose of hormones”, which may lead to hormonal disorders and related menstrual cycle disorders.

– Immediately after taking emergency contraception, symptoms such as nausea or malaise may also appear – says Dr. Mrugacz, adding that their occurrence is, however, “rare”. The doctor also warned against using this type of agents in the case of active thromboembolism, problems with varicose veins or liver diseases.

The morning-after pill – when should it be taken?

Depending on the type of morning-after pill, it should be taken within 72 or a maximum of 120 hours of risky intercourse. However, its effectiveness depends on whether the embryo has not had time to implant in the uterus.

What if the embryo implants before taking the morning-after pill? This pill does not have an abortifacient effect, i.e. its action does not terminate the pregnancy. However, Dr. Mrugacz admits that additional research is needed on the possible negative effects on the mother and the embryo. – Taking large doses of hormones may theoretically lead to long-term side effects. In the case of an early stage of pregnancy, a few days after conception, these complications should not occur – says the gynecologist, emphasizing that this issue has not yet been researched enough to clearly indicate possible complications.

Morning after pill, illustration photo Shutterstock

SEE ALSO: The government announces changes to the regulations on emergency contraception

Abortion pill – what is it?

Abortion pills are not a method of contraception, but a medical abortion. These tablets are used to terminate an existing pregnancy. As explained by Dr. Mrugacz, depending on their type, they work by intensifying uterine contractions or by blocking the production of progesterone, a hormone necessary to maintain and develop pregnancy.

When taken correctly, abortion pills are 97-99 percent effective. – According to the views established in scientific literature, they should be taken immediately after diagnosis of pregnancy – says the gynecologist. – Undertaking medical abortion after the 9th week of pregnancy is not recommended due to the significantly reduced effectiveness of these agents and the higher frequency of uterine bleeding – he explains.

Taking an abortion pill is often associated with side effects such as irregular periods, pain, fatigue, malaise, a slight increase in temperature, and vomiting.

SEE ALSO: Is taking the abortion pill legal? What are the possible side effects of medical abortion?

Availability of morning-after and abortion pills

Morning after pills are widely available in Polish pharmacies. However, since 2017, you need to present a prescription to purchase them. This prescription does not have to be issued by a gynecologist. However, including morning-after pills on the list of drugs sold with a prescription requires not only the need to contact a doctor before purchasing them, but also the possibility that the pharmacist may refuse to dispense them. However, it should be emphasized that this can only happen in situations strictly defined by law. Invoking the conscience clause by a pharmacy employee is not one of such grounds.

However, abortion pills are not available in Polish pharmacies at all. It is only possible to order them from abroad. According to Polish law, importing such tablets for personal use is legal. According to the currently applicable law, the so-called “abortion assistance”, i.e. helping another person have an abortion.

Author:jdw//mm, az

Main photo source: tvn24

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