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AZ Women Have New 5-Day Emergency Contraceptive Option

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August 18, 2010

PHOENIX - Arizona women have a new option for preventing an unintended pregnancy. It's called "ella," a prescription-only pill approved last week by the Food and Drug Administration that reduces the chances for pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex. But Carol Bafaloukos, associate medical director of Planned Parenthood Arizona, cautions women against relying on the new pill as their sole method of contraception.

"There are reasons why a woman may choose this as her method of birth control, but we would definitely recommend not using it as a regular method of birth control. Other methods are much more effective at preventing a pregnancy."

She says a woman might choose the ella pill if she can't tolerate hormones, or if her partner is away for extended time periods. Critics have said the drug is closer to an abortion pill than an emergency contraceptive. However, Bafaloukos says, the new pill will not disrupt an existing pregnancy.

"If the woman is already pregnant, she will continue to be pregnant after taking these pills. This is attempting to delay or inhibit ovulation. So, we're hoping that there's no conception whatsoever."

Because the new pill is effective up to five days after unprotected sex, Bafaloukos says it gives a woman time to discuss her options with a spouse, parent or other confidant.

"Women are not necessarily aware that these methods are out there. They just don't know to get into the pharmacy, so sometimes it takes them several days to even be aware of the fact. Not to mention, this one is prescription-only, so they're going to have to get in to a provider."

Another emergency contraceptive known as "Plan B" begins to lose its ability to prevent pregnancy after three days, but is available without a prescription to women 17 and older.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ