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more reproductive choice with ellaOne

Content Warning: this article contains discussion of sexual assault

Image courtesy of Family Planning NSW

Image courtesy of Family Planning NSW

It’s not an uncommon situation: you forget to take your contraceptive pill, the condom broke… you were simply too caught up in the heat of the moment andtheir wavy, Blake Lively-meets-Heath Ledger blonde locks that the condom was never considered in the first place. Emergency contraception or ‘the morning after pill’ can give almost any proud uterus-owner a second chance to prevent pregnancy after sex. Unfortunately in many cases, emergency contraception is also used as a way to prevent a pregnancy resulting from non-consensual or coerced sexual contact. This little pill is therefore an invaluable asset to women everywhere, and it just got that much better.

When taken within twenty four hours of unprotected sex, the average emergency contraceptive pill will prevent ninety five percent of expected pregnancies. However, efficacy decreases to eighty five percent when the pill is taken up to three days after unprotected sex, and subsequently the effectiveness of the contraceptive significantly decreases over time.

But good news! As of today, there will be another form of emergency contraception available to Australian women of reproductive age – the ellaOne. This contraceptive pill uses a state of the art formula, allowing the patient to take the pill safely up to five days after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. ellaOne will be available as a prescription medicine; though will not be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The ellaOne is the most highly effective emergency contraceptive pill that are FDA approved for use. It prevents more pregnancies than its counterpart, progestin-only pills, especially in women who weigh more than seventy five kilos, have recently had or will menstruate within two weeks or were able to obtain an emergency contraceptive until three to five days after the unprotected sex. However, more research is needed to learn if pregnant and breastfeeding women can safely use ellaOne.

Dr Philip Goldstone, a Medical Director from Marie Stopes Australia, noted that ‘it is important that women visit a healthcare professional as soon as possible after unprotected sex, preferably within the first 24 hours’. The MS Health General Manager, Carl Arico, commented: ‘By supplying ellaOne in Australia, MS Health and Marie Stopes International are providing women with another choice of emergency contraception in line with our global mission of children by choice, not chance.’

Why exactly are these extra two days so important? In many cases where unprotected sex has led to anxiety or distress, it is unreasonable to expect women to address potential risks before any immediate physical or metal harm incurred. In Australia, 17% of women have experienced sexual assault from the age of 15, and girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were the greatest proportion of survivors of sexual violence. Along with this, In a study of 850 reported rapes in Victoria, 26.5% were identified as having a disability, 58.8% of these had a psychiatric disability or a mental health issue and 22.1% were identified as having an intellectual disability.

Where this is the case, the danger of psychological damage for all survivors of rape is exorbitant, let alone for those who have not yet even come to terms with their sexual identity. These few precious days are too often spent trying to unpack complex emotions and necessary reaction to their abuse. ellaOne reports no difference in safety and efficacy for adolescents taking the contraceptive compared to adults aged 18 and older. Thus, combined with an extended period of effectiveness, ellaOne allows all women who have been through difficult experiences with unprotected sex the opportunity to address immediate bodily and mental detriment before dealing with the less proximate consequences.

ellaOne can be taken at any time during your menstrual cycle, but remember – like any emergency contraceptive, it is a backup method for preventing pregnancy, and not designed to be a regular-use contraceptive. In any case, the ellaOne emergency contraceptive pill is an exciting development for women of all ages, no matter the cause of their pregnancy scare. What a time to be alive!

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