Unprotected Sex? Morning After Pills

It’s very easy to judge from the outside when someone else has had unprotected sex, placing themselves at risk of undesired consequences. Age doesn’t matter, neither does the reason why there was no use of a condom, the point is that it happened and that it’s possible that concerns arise the following day. 

What is the “morning after pill”?

When we say “morning after pill” we usually think of what is actually called an emergency birth control pill, an over the counter medication that can prevent a pregnancy when taken within 72 hours after the unprotected sexual encounter. The efficacy of this method is around 88% and it’s more effective the sooner it is taken, although a certain effect has been documented when taken up to 5 days after the sexual encounter. 

Only for emergencies

The problem of this medication is not so much its effectiveness (which in any case is high, although not excellent), but rather the use it is given in real life. The simple fact of calling it a “morning after pill” may suggest that it’s a “lifesaver” to compensate for any carelessness and that it may be used as many times as necessary. On the other hand, recognizing it as an emergency tool may put into perspective how delicate its use is. That is to say, you don’t go around breaking all the glasses that contain extinguishers which say “break in case of emergency”, but rather you do it when the case actually calls for it.

Moreover, it has been studied that the frequent use of emergency contraceptives may alter the menstrual cycle, as well as reduce its effectiveness considerably, and what may result from this is exactly the opposite of what we want to avoid. 

There is also the PEP

There’s not just one medication that can be taken after an unprotected sexual encounter in order to avoid a negative consequence. There is also a treatment capable of preventing contraction of an HIV infection. This is known as Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP, for short) and although it’s not as practical as a single pill, it is a measure that you can turn to, also, in the 72 hours after the sexual encounter. 

This method of treatment, which is taken for a month, has not been free of controversy. This is why, it went from being used only by medical staff accidentally exposed to HIV (because of a pinch from a contaminated needle, for example), to being given to victims of sexual rape. With time and, as the stigma that classified it as a “simple solution” dissipated, it started to be fiven to people with high risk sexual practices, such as people with multiple sexual partners or people who had sex under the influence of drugs. 

The PEP scheme is only 80% effective, but considering the lifestyle change that acquiring HIV may represent, it sounds very promising. 

Still, the objective of sexual education and awareness programs are not to have to resort to any of these medications, sins both cause, at the very least, uncomfortable side effects. The important thing is to be aware of the risks of unprotected sex and decide what is best to take care of our own health: use a condom. 

At AHF we can help you, if you were in a risky situation, you can make your appointment here for free HIV testing. You can also write to us if you have any questions or concerns.