Is ‘Morning after pill’ a Blessing or a Curse?
When Lucy Njeri was celebrating her 20th birthday, her boyfriend visited her and they had unprotected sex only to realize the dangers she had exposed herself to the following morning.
After a talk with her boyfriend that she could be pregnant, he advised her to go for the emergency pill, Postinor- 2 (P2), or he would abandon her if she was pregnant.
Njeri told KNA that she did not have a second option as she comes from a humble background and was not ready for a child while in first year.
Her story is a replication on why many women opt for the emergency pill that doctors warn should be consumed only twice per year. Surprisingly, some youths have gone to an extent of consuming the pill thrice in a month, which is very risky.
A senior doctor at Narok Referral hospital Dr. Hillary Masai explains there are numerous short term and long terms effects associated with the emergency pill.
He says the abuse of this drug might cause the body to be resistance to family planning methods leading to numerous unplanned pregnancies.
“The prolonged use of this pill leads to changes in hormone levels that interfere with body processes that could easily lead to cancer,” says Masai.
He notes that should unfortunate incidents like rape occur, the survivor is advised to rush to the hospital where medication will be provided to prevent unwanted pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).
The doctor warns that before the consumption of the pill, one is required to follow the prescription measures because as time elapses, the pill becomes weaker.
Some of the common immediate side effects of consuming P2 tablets are fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Some users also experience stomach pains, diarrhea, dizziness, headache and even vaginal bleeding.
“High risks of infertility have been experienced as a result of abuse of this drug,” the doctor says, adding that consuming more than one P2 tablet at once or combining the pills with other drugs can impact negatively on one’s health.
“Prolonged use of the emergency contraceptive could cause a woman’s monthly period to stop indefinitely or begins to flow irregularly,” he says. “The chance of becoming pregnant and sustaining the pregnancy with a regular flowing period is high,” he adds.
Consequently, the misuse could cause a shift in the ovulation cycle; destroy the womb or even cause infertility at the long run.
He adds that there are various instances when one must not take these pills. These include: when the woman is pregnant or if she had unprotected intercourse more than 72 hours earlier in the same menstrual cycle.
Others are when suffering from breast cancer, if allergic to any of the ingredients of the tablet and when the P2 expiry date printed on the pack is torn or shows signs of tampering.
The pill is also not recommended for people who suffer diabetes mellitus, severe liver disease or heart diseases.
Masai is encouraging parents to spend time with their children and train them on sex related issues to help them avoid unwanted pregnancies.
Statistics indicate that the most susceptible women are of age group between 13 and 30 years. This is the age that is more sexually active and yet very few of them use contraceptives.
Ms. Wilkista Muthoni, a single mother of two teenage girls confesses that the topic of sex is too sensitive to handle as children are mostly on social media where they get a lot of influence.
“This topic is very challenging to handle, I would like to approach my kids and talk about this topic but I just cannot. I have decided to pray for them and leave the teachers and counselors to handle them in their institutions,” she says
A pharmacist at a local chemist near Maasai Mara University who sought for anonymity said there is an upsurge demand of the P2 especially over the weekends. “I sell over 200 packets of P2 over the weekend to both men and women who come demanding for it,” said the pharmacist.
The pharmacist says the P2 and pregnancy test kits are the most purchased at the chemist.
“Very few people will come asking for condoms or family planning pills, but majority flock to buy the emergency pill that is consumed within 72 hours after having unprotected sex,” explains the pharmacist.
How does P2 work? Dr. Masai explains that P2 is an emergency morning after pill that contains one common female hormone that prevents pregnancy mainly by delaying or preventing ovulation thus preventing fertilization.
The efficacy of the pill depends on how many hours passed since one had unprotected sex.
It is estimated that P2 will prevent 85 percent of expected pregnancies. Of these, 95 percent will be prevented if taken within the first 24 hours, declining to 58 percent if taken between 48 hours and 72 hours after unprotected intercourse.
Nevertheless, P2 does not protect somebody from contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS and syphilis.
The issue of contraceptives has also elicited varied reaction from section religious leaders who see it as promoting promiscuity. Of all forms of contraceptives, a male condom has been more embraced, which makes one wonder why more women do not take the initiative to protect themselves.
By Ann Salaton/Sabina Gichuke