More US women use morning after pill

More US women use morning after pill

Researchers found that between 2006 and 2008, about twice as many women ages 15 to 44 said they had used emergency contraception, compared with four to six years earlier — when it was still restricted to prescription-only.

The emergency contraceptive Plan B has been available in the US since 1999. The pills, which contain the hormone progestin, cut the risk of pregnancy after unprotected sex by stopping the ovaries from releasing an egg.

However, the contraceptive must be taken within 72 hours of having sex -- and the sooner, the better. After the first 12 hours the risk of pregnancy increases by 50 percent.

So in 2006, after years of political controversy, the US approved Plan B for “behind-the-counter” sales to adults — meaning they could get it from a pharmacy without waiting for a prescription. The age restriction was later lowered to 17 in 2009.

In the new study, researchers looked at data from a periodic government survey to see how national rates of emergency-contraception use may be changing.

They found that of more than 6,300 sexually active US women surveyed between 2006 and 2008, nearly 10 per cent said they had ever used emergency contraception.

That compared with a rate of about 4 per cent among women surveyed in 2002, according to findings published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

“It has more than doubled since the last time the data were collected,” said Megan L. Kavanaugh, a senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute in New York who worked on the study.

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