Women Don’t Realise That The Morning After Pill Doesn’t Work If You Have Already Ovulated


Women Don't Realise That The Morning After Pill Doesn't Work If You Have Already Ovulated

by Rebecca Reid |

The morning after pill is supposed to be a bit of a miracle - a pill which can prevent you from getting pregnant even if you've had unprotected sex. But, ask your average woman on the street how it actually works, and it seems like she wouldn't actually know.

Rose Stokes wrote a piece for Refinery29 about the experience of getting pregnant despite having taken the morning after pill, something she didn't realise was possible. In response to her article, women took to Twitter to say that they also had no idea that the morning after pill only works if you take it before you ovulate, because it works by delaying ovulation.

'You have to take it within 72 hours, the sooner the better' is a mantra that we've all had drilled into us, but has anyone ever stopped to explain why?

For anyone who has been let down by their sex education (and trust me, that's most of us), here's how the MAP works: you take it, it delays ovulation for long enough that the sperm inside you die, so by the time you ovulate they're unable to fertilise your egg.

But, if you've already ovulated then there's nothing that the MAP can do to help you, and if you need emergency contraception then, the only real option is the copper coil.

After ovulation you are fertile for around 24 hours. So you'd be unlucky to have had unprotected sex during those 24 hours, but it's certainly not impossible and it does happen. Which is how women who took the morning after pill end up pregnant despite having taken responsible steps to prevent it.

The morning after pill only has a 2% failure rate, which is around the same as the pill or condoms, so it does generally work. But that's scant comfort if you're one of the 2% who experience the failure.

I've taken the morning after pill multiple times, so I've had a lot of those consultations in chemists where they look at you like you're a squashed slug and ask you why you didn't use a condom. During those consultations I have never once been advised that the pill will do sweet FA if I've already ovulated.

According to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the consultation is not necessary, but perhaps the way to make it worthwhile would be to include some information about how the pill actually works.

Why aren't women being told this in sex ed? Not just once but multiple times. Why isn't it on the packet in massive letters? Why don't they tell you as they hand it over?

Not all women know when they ovulate, but those of us who use period trackers might well have a sense of it, which would mean that we could make a more informed choice about how to move forward with our emergency contraception.

Having a copper coil fitted is an alternative option for retroactive contraception and one that some women may wish to opt for if they're worried about becoming pregnant.

Being failed by our reproductive healthcare is not a new experience for women, but this complete lack of education about how an essential pillar of reproductive medicine works is particularly woeful.

READ MORE: The morning after pill is now available to under-16s

READ MORE: How does the morning after pill work?

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