Even if the "morning-after pill" fails and a woman becomes pregnant, there is no increased risk to the health of the mother or baby, research suggests.
In studying the newborns of mothers who took the emergency contraceptive levonorgestrel (in Canada sold as Plan B), researchers did not find significant differences in the length or weight of these babies, as compared to those born to mothers who didn't take the "morning-after" pill. Additionally, there wasn't any increased risk to the "exposed" babies of having malformations.
"Although the sample size was small, in our experience, the failure of levonorgestrel as an emergency contraceptive was not associated with an increased risk of major congenital malformation, prepartum complications, or an adverse pregnancy outcome," write Dr. Marco De Santis and colleagues in the journal Fertility and Sterility.
The researchers studied 36 pregnant women who took the emergency contraceptive levonorgestrel and 80 pregnant women who didn't take it. The numbers of stillbirths, birth defects, and pregnancy complications amongst the two groups were comparable.
"No statistical differences were observed in terms of spontaneous or legal abortion and pregnancy and neonatal complications," the study states. "And there was no ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside the uterus) in either group."
The study authors note that since failure of the "morning-after pill" doesn't appear to negatively affect the fetus, mothers pregnant with exposed babies shouldn't opt for an abortion because they fear for the baby's health.
Levonorgestrel (Plan B) is sold in Canada without a prescription as two 0.75 mg tablets. One tablet should be taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex and the second tablet 12 hours later. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it can lower the risk of pregnancy by up to 89 per cent. The sooner that emergency contraception is taken after unprotected sex, the more effective it is as preventing pregnancy.
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