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she blinded me with science

So It Turns Out We Weren’t Really Sure How The Morning After Pill Works


Whenever amendments, resolutions, and other such proposed laws attempt to strictly include fertilized ova as persons in attempts to make abortion illegal, it is pointed out, and rightfully so, that not only does medically defined pregnancy not begin until that fertilized ova travels down its Fallopian tube and implants in the wall of the uterus, that the majority of birth control methods prevent implantation, rather than fertilization. Meaning, that such personhood amendments would actually outlaw an overwhelmingly large number of birth control options for women. Plan B, and other “morning-after” pills, however, usually get left out of those discussions, since it’s generally understood and even written on the box that they flat out prevent the implantation of fertilized ova instead of preventing fertilization.

But as the New York Times recently looked into, scientific studies show that morning after pills don’t work that way, and the FDA was straight-up labeling the boxes wrong.

According to studies done before Plan B, the first of the morning after pills, was approved by the FDA, Plan B did not keep fertilized eggs from attaching to cultured layers of uterine cells, and more recent scientific studies have disprooved the “works by preventing implantation” theory definitively. What the drug actually does, conclusively, is delay ovulation. See, to put it bluntly, it takes a few days for sperm to swim up the Fallopian tubes, find an ovulated egg, get into position, and then fertilize it. Morning after pills typically delay ovulation for a few days, until any sperm will have exceeded their use-by date, with a big dose of a hormone, while some also thicken uterine mucous to make it harder for sperm to swim around. During all that, ladies can look forward to dizzyness, nausea, and any and all other symptoms of being close to or on your period. But the drug only works if you haven’t ovulated yet. Women who have already ovulated before taking the morning after pill still get pregnant because there’s already an egg in their Fallopian tubes for sperm to get to, and it can still implant in the lining of her uterus.

Why did the FDA mislabel the description of morning after pills, despite lack of scientific proof and against the objections of the folks who made the pill in the first place? Naturally, the FDA declined to comment, but the New York Times had this to say:

Experts say implantation was likely [cited as being prevented by Plan B] on the label partly because daily birth control pills, some of which contain Plan B’s active ingredient, appear to alter the endometrium, the lining of the uterus into which fertilized eggs implant. Altering the endometrium has not been proven to interfere with implantation. But in any case, scientists say that unlike the accumulating doses of daily birth control pills, the one-shot dose in morning-after pills does not have time to affect the uterine lining.

Naturally, government agencies and other medical sites that have updated their information on morning after pills to reflect the recent studies done on the drugs are coming under fire from anti-abortion activists, who you’d think would be happy that scientists had proven that there were actually less readily available over-the-counter ways for women to kill fertilized eggs. The New York Times article on it is long and contains a lot of information on the science and the FDA’s label, you can read the whole thing here.

(via Discovery Magazine.)

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  • Anonymous

    Um…WOW. Now we know, but what the hell? That’s a pretty freakin’ serious mistake to make…

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately (for me) this went in one ear and out the other. This is through no fault of yours. But I now know, the Plan B pill is labeled to sell, not for reals. In the future if I find myself in a sticky situation, I’ll take it…and still wait for the rest of the month to find out if I accidently ruined my life.

    Just kidding on the ruining part. Sort of.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/F6WDMXYFH6S5NTOYGNP6WPXGFA Sarah

     Yeah, but now that you know the science you can save yourself $50. If you have been inseminated and need Plan B, it’s only effective if you haven’t ovulated that month. If you’ve ovulated… well, prayer is free.

  • Anonymous

    my roomate’s mom got paid $ 14828 past week. she is making an incom e on the internet and bought a $481700 house. All she did was get fortunate and put into use the guide exposed on this web site 

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  • http://twitter.com/Super_Widget Joanna

    And that’s why I stick with condoms.  For the most part, you know they’ve either worked or not straight away =P

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately condoms do break and plan B is great on the rare occasion that this happens!  I speak from experience.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, I’m pro-life and I’m happy about this; it means that people don’t die when someone takes Plan B.  Simple as that.

  • http://www.tulgeywooddesigns.com Amphigorey

     If you’ve ovulated, abortion is still an option. Prayer’s not the only recourse, as much as the anti-women league would have it be so.

  • http://www.tulgeywooddesigns.com Amphigorey

     Blastocysts aren’t people. Neither are zygotes. Framing it as “yay, nobody dies from this drug!” is bizarre because even if it worked the way the FDA originally thought, there would STILL be nobody dying.

  • Anonymous

    My point is, from my perspective, the way the FDA thought it worked *would* have killed people.  I’m not trying to shoo in the debate as to at what point a fertilized egg becomes a person; I’m just saying that people who see this as I do should construe this as good news.

  • http://jinian.livejournal.com/ Jinian

    No kidding.  I had two condoms break in two months, no problems with them before or since, and I was really, really glad to be able to get Plan B.  Made me miserable the second time, but look at me with no babies!

  • http://twitter.com/AmyTheFreak Amy C.

     Overpopulation. Simple as that!

  • Anonymous

    my co-worker’s sister got paid $21912 the previous week. she gets paid on the internet and got a $416800 house. All she did was get fortunate and put into action the steps given on this link

    ⇛⇛⇛⇛► (Click At My Name For Link)

  • http://twitter.com/burntbythesea Amanda Allen

     yeah i’m still wowed by the “Women who have already ovulated before taking the morning after pill still get pregnant” part…. wtf?? And it’s not like it’s super easy to tell if we’ve already ovulated this month, so why take it at all??

  • http://www.tulgeywooddesigns.com Amphigorey

     In your perspective, an acorn is exactly the same thing as a fully grown tree. Your perspective is insulting to humans who actually, you know, exist. I for one don’t appreciate being lumped in the same group as a blastocyst.

    If your concern is that it’s “human life,” well, so are your fingernails. So is a cancer cell. Lots of things are “human life,” but we don’t call it murder every time someone undergoes chemotherapy.

    Sure, a fertilized egg is alive and human, but so what? It doesn’t matter. It certainly doesn’t matter enough to hijack a real person’s life. Pro life is a nice way of saying forced birth.

  • Anonymous

    There is a difference between “human” and “human person.” A fertilized egg has human DNA and is therefor human. It is not a person. Whenever you believe human life begins, personhood is not possible until consciousness begins. 

  • Anonymous

    Because wouldn’t you rather take it and hope you’re in time and increase your likelihood of preventing pregnancy? I certainly would. 

  • JoAnna Wahlund

     By what criteria do you conclude that zygotes and blastocysts aren’t human beings?

  • JoAnna Wahlund

     Wrong. Your analogy is flawed. A sapling is a tree. An oak is a tree. A zygote is a human being. An infant is a human being. An acorn is more akin to a human ova.

    “Sure, a fertilized egg is alive and human, but so what?”

    If a zygote is a human being, that means you favor depriving a human being of his/her rights.

  • JoAnna Wahlund

     ”Personhood is not possible until consciousness begins.”

    So, when I fall asleep, I cease to be a person? Are people in comas not persons, either?

    When is the magical moment when consciousness occurs? How do you know, and how do you test for it?

  • Paul Henry Borg

     ”Blastocysts aren’t people. Neither are zygotes.”

    Blastocyst is to zygote is to fetus, in the same way as fetus is to baby, is to  child is to adolescent is to adult is to middle age is to old age. It is just one long life continuum from the moment of conception to death. No next stage without the previous stage. 

  • Anonymous

    Allow me to rephrase. Personhood is not possible until sentience begins. 

    The mirror test has long been considered a reliable test for sentience. 

  • http://www.tulgeywooddesigns.com Amphigorey

     As I said, cancer cells are human life. So are skin cells, but you don’t weep every time you wash your face.

    “Human life” is not the same thing as a human being. So no, a zygote is not remotely the same thing as a fully developed human. It’s alive, yes, but being alive is not a big deal. Cancer is alive. Lots of things qualify as human life that are not human beings – zygotes included.

     If you believe that a zygote should have the right to hijack another person’s body to sustain itself, then you also believe that people with healthy kidneys should be forcibly compelled to donate to those in need. It’s exactly the same thing.

    You admit that an acorn is not like a tree. An acorn is like a zygote; a sapling is like a baby. An actual baby that’s been born, not your imaginary baby that’s the size of a pinhead.

  • http://www.tulgeywooddesigns.com Amphigorey

     I answered this above. Human life, not human being. You really want to assert that a microscopic blastocyst is an actual human being? Do you want to let it vote, marry, drive a car? It’s not even remotely the same thing.

    Do you know how big a zygote is? It’s microscopic. It’s A SINGLE CELL. If you want to assert that a single cell is a human being, YOU have to back up that assertion, because that’s far more wild than my pointing out that a single cell is a different thing than an actual person.

  • http://www.tulgeywooddesigns.com Amphigorey

    Sure, but so what? You can make a perfectly smooth, continuous path from red to blue, but you wouldn’t assert that red is the same as blue. Well, I wouldn’t, but it looks like JoAnna Wahlund would.

  • Paul Henry Borg

    “Do you want to let it vote, marry, drive a car?”

    So one is not a human being until the age of majority. Now that really makes sense. !!!

    s to the other issue of the relationship between zygotes through to old age: What is ADDED to the human being between each stage. Everything is fixed by the DNA from the time of conception right through to old age. QED. There are no minor or major additions and/or variations in the same way as there is in continuum between blue and red. So you analogy is a false one!.
    Back to the drawing boards.

  • amesrg

    i had unprotected sex one time app 9pm and took the plan B pill no later than 8:00am the NEXT day. i hadn’t had sex prior to in many months and my boyfriend and i were nervous the two wks after intercourse awaiting for me to start my period. well, i never started my period. i’m 6wks pregnant and happy it didn’t work. bottom line; my man has some really athletic swimmers!! they traveled and one penetrated my egg in less than 11 hours.

  • Amy

    What’s funny is that when plant life is explained it is said that the production of the next seed starts the next generation of a life cycle. Yet, when an egg is fertilized in a human it is questioned as to whether it is a life or not. Of course, feeling sympathy for a plant over a human baby is more popular than protecting babies in this country.

  • http://www.jis.gov.jm/ Feefee Ess

    Good point