Postinor 2, the emergency contraceptive "morning after" pill which has been on the Jamaican market for over 10 years,is now available (as of July 1) without a doctor's prescription, making it much more accessible and convenient to women who opt to use this form of contraception.
The pill was relaunched by The National Family Planning Board (NFPB) and Medimpex Jamaica Limited (the pill's distributor) at the Knutsford Cout Hotel last Wednesday.
Dr Olivia McDonald, executive director of the NFPB, lauded this breakthrough which she considers essential in broadening the options of birth control for women. She alluded to days of old when women would devise odd ways and means to prevent pregnancies.
"Throughout history there have been many attempts to find ways to prevent pregnancies. In 8th century Middle Eastern countries, sneezing and jumping backwards was thought to be ways to dislodge sperm. In 18th France, a post-coital douche was given as an alternative. We know now that those practices are futile in preventing unwanted pregnancies," she said.
Stressing the reasons why such an option needed to be readily available, Dr McDonald said that studies done by the NFPB in 2000, show that 84 percent of 15-19 year olds were interested in emergency contraception; 1/3 of pregnancy in teens occurs while in school and 1/3 of that amount did not go back to school. She also said that intergenerational poverty could be reduced with the easy access of the emergency contraceptive.
Speaking to persons who object to the 'morning after pill' as it relates to abortions, Janet Davis, director-Outreach at the NFPB, said that "with the availability of this pill unplanned pregnancies and the number of abortions will be reduced. The quick access to the pill will be helpful. But this pill is not abortive."
How widespread is the use of Postinor 2? Dr Harold Hardy informed All Woman that out of 10 sexually active women in Jamaica, approximately 3 women have used the pill at least once. Also, Medimpex the distributor stated that about 5,500 packets were sold in May 2003. However, use of the pill said Hardy should increase now that a prescription is not required to purchase it.
Postinor 2 can be used for up to 3 days after unprotected sex, however, it is the most effective, the morning after. According to Marcia McBean, senior medical representative of Medimpex Jamaica Ltd, the effectiveness of Positnor 2 is as follows:
*94 percent within 24 hours
*85 percent within 48 hours
*58 percent within 72 hours
Postinor 2, sometimes mistakenly called the 'abortion pill', has no effect on women who are already pregnant. Additionally, McBean cautions against repeated use of this pill as it is only for 'emergencies.'And even though the pill no longer requires a prescription, there are caveats to its use. For example, the pharmacist can refuse to sell the product if the candidate is unsuitable. Some of the questions that are likely to be asked to determine suitability are:
- are you currently pregnant?
- when was your last period?
- are you epileptic?
- if this is not your first time, when was the last time you used the emergency contraceptive?
Dr McDonald also states that, "if one is having regular intercourse, you should be on the oral contraceptive, so that you would not use the emergency pill unless it is a real emergency."
Side effects of the pill are mild and go away within 1-2 days. Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue and spotting are the more common symptoms. But the pill has no effect on fertility.
The wholesale price of Postinor 2 is $299.20 with pharmacists expected to add on a 40 percent mark up. It is important to note that Postinor 2 does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.