Is it time to ditch the ‘morning after’ misnomer?

codeine shoppers: sad woman examines a white tablet

A new study has found less than a fifth of young people during Schoolies week were aware emergency contraception is effective for up to five days after sex

With Schoolies week fast approaching in November, Queensland pharmacy researchers have pointed out the importance of educating teens about the availability and effectiveness of emergency contraception.

In their survey of 498 Schoolies attendees in November 2017, of which the majority were aged 17 years, just over one third (36.7%) were aware emergency contraception is available from community pharmacies without a prescription.

Less than one fifth (18.5%) were aware of the 72-hour (three-day) or 120-hour (five-day) effectiveness windows of oral levonorgestrel 1.5mg and oral ulipristal 30mg, respectively.

Half of respondents indicated the window of effectiveness was either 12 or 24 hours.

“These findings raise the question as to whether the term ‘morning-after pill’ is responsible for confusing those at risk from unintended pregnancy,” say the authors in the Journal of Pharmacy Practice and Research.

Additionally less than half of respondents (38%) agreed that emergency contraception “is not harmful”.

Females were significantly more likely than males to provide an appropriate response to any emergency contraception statement.

For example, they were 2.34 times more likely than males to choose the correct effectiveness window.

During Schoolies celebrations, tens of thousands of Australian school leavers aged 16-18 years descend on the Gold Coast and other regions across the country for festivities.

Studies show intoxication and unprotected sex is very high at Schoolies events, raising the risks of unplanned pregnancy, say the researchers.

“Schoolies may not access emergency contraception when indicated due to fear of harm, uncertainty about its effectiveness window or where to access it,” says lead researcher Denise Hope from the School of Pharmacy & Pharmacology, Griffith University on the Gold Coast.

“While the effectiveness of emergency contraception is enhanced by its timely use, young women should be made aware they have up to five days following unprotected intercourse to access the medicine from a pharmacy,” says Ms Hope.

The phrase “morning after” should be abandoned in favour of “emergency contraception”, which is more clinically appropriate, she adds.

“Pharmacists are an accessible source of free advice, provision of support relating to sexual health and referral as necessary.”

Read the full study here

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