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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Be planning

Published: September 22, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

Can I get the morning-after pill on campus?

Yes. The Brandeis Health Center supplies Plan B, a brand of emergency contraceptive, or EC. EC is popularly known as the morning-after pill because we all understand what the morning after means. We all try to do our best to make good choices and protect ourselves, but lets face it, shit happens. Contraception sometimes fails, and sometimes we have unprotected sex. EC provides an option by preventing a potential pregnancy before it occurs.

EC comes in the form of two pills, taken 12 hours apart. Plan B, the version provided at the Health Center, contains a larger dose of levonorgestrel, a hormone found in some birth control pills. The hormone prevents ovulation, fertilization, and the implantation of an egg to the uterine lining. If any of these steps is missed, pregnancy will not occur.

EC is not the same as RU-486, or the Abortion Pill. RU-486 works by blocking the hormones needed to maintain a pregnancy, stopping the development of a fetus, and then inducing contractions in the uterus to expel the fetus. Basically, the symptoms are similar to that of a miscarriage. If you are already pregnant, however, taking EC will not harm or affect the fetus in any way.

The side effects of EC are similar to that of a bad period. They can include nausea, vomiting, cramps, spotting, and sometimes headaches or dizziness. Different people react to EC differently. Many people feel PMS-y, which could include anything from cramps to mild irritability. Some become very sick, while others have no symptoms at all. If you take or have taken the birth control pill, your sensitivity to that may give you a clue as to how your body might react to the larger dosage in Plan B. Still, the experience varies greatly from person to person.

The morning-after pill is a bit of a misnomer, because Plan B is effective for up to 72 hours after the uh oh. Plan B is most effective if taken in the first 36 hours after intercourse, but remains effective for up to 72 hours. Plan B literature states that the risk of pregnancy is reduced by 89% if taken during the first 72 hours. The sooner you take it, the better, but the drug is designed to give you a window of time so that you dont have to go rushing out into the night, searching for a 24-hour clinic.

The Brandeis Health Center (open from 8 AM to 8 PM weekdays, and 10 AM to 4 PM weekends) sells EC for $20 out of pocket. Your insurance will not be billed, and your parents will never know unless you choose to tell them. You do not need an appointment. For liability reasons, the person who buys the pill must be the person who takes the pill, aka you cannot buy pills for your friends here, your friends at different schools, or your partner. Besides, it is usually a good idea for the person taking the pill to be instructed by a professional, rather than hear the instructions second-hand. Usually, the nurse or other staff member will ask the person to take the first pill while at the Health Center. If the idea of a crowded waiting room full of prying eyes and ears frightens you, you might try calling ahead and explaining your concerns in a more private manner. Or you can always write personal on the form to be filled out at the desk, and leave it at that.

Recently, the FDA approved EC to be sold over the counter to women ages 18 and older. I am not sure if drug stores have implemented this yet, but keep an eye out.