I’m frequently asked what the alternatives are to the Morning After Pill (MAP). It’s a good question and in the spirit of World Contraception Day (Sept 26th), I feel its rather timely. The MAP is heavily relied on as an emergency form of contraception, perhaps in the incidence of a ‘whoopsie,’ a break in a barrier contraception such as a condom or to be frank a seriously irresponsible moment. Harsh news is, there really are no natural options when it comes to tackling emergency contraception. But rather than being left feeling hopeless, it’s about being at it’s mercy but doing what we can to support the body at any given moment and a great time to be thankful for the efforts of western medicine in such instances and do what you can to support your body should you choose to use it.
So should you take the Morning After Pill? Probably – unless you’re ready for children there isn’t another knight in shining armour going around.
The morning after pill works by giving the body a huge dose of hormones (specifically levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of the hormone progestin – aka progesterone) to prevent or discourage implantation of a fertilised embryo. It sets the cogs in motion for the body to bleed, shed the lining and prevent a fertilised embryo getting comfortable in the uterine lining. Depending on when it is taken, it may also stop ovulation as a means to prevent pregnancy too. It’s typically only effective for a small window after unprotected sex and so it is important to head to your doctor as soon as possible otherwise it can be too late. This may mean that even though you’ve taken the MAP and experienced a hormone bleed (essentially it’s not a true period but a withdrawal from hormones), it’s important to know that the MAP isn’t 100% effective and many babies have been conceived even though it has been taken. That said, taken correctly you have a very good chance that things will return back to normal even more so with a little extra help.
I think it is an important time to note that nothing is 100% effective. Its big sister, the Oral Contraceptive Pill (OCP) is said to be 99% effective although it may not be as foolproof as we’ve been lead to believe. Read more about that here. On the other side of this are the long-term effects it may have on you and your hormones – something certainly to weigh up before using it as a reliable form of contraception. We know that the long-term use of the pill severely depletes the quality of our gut health, has its way with our vitamin and mineral stores, is linked with depression and a host of other side effects including headaches, low libido, blood clots and issues with elevated oestrogen such as cancer. That said, you may be choosing to take the OCP for contraception and I love that we are so very fortunate to live in a time where we have a choice. I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t do this, the pill can certainly be a prevention method, just know the risks. I hear the very familiar story every single day from women sitting in my clinic wishing they could turn back the clock and that they were better informed before they made the choice to use it ongoing. It’s important to always collect the facts and look at your options. My message – no matter what medication you are taking, know the risks and benefits and sit with what works right for you. Contraception aside, the OCP (as well as the Mirena and implanon and the copper IUD to some point) are all devices prescribed and fitted to ‘treat’ a host of issues ranging from period pain to acne, depression to PCOS and Endometriosis. Whilst the pill may offer some timely relief, it can never fix the problem and this is where the problem lies. In fact, because of the factors mentioned above, it may contribute to worsened symptoms in the long haul. Good news is, all hormone imbalance is treatable and my hope for all women is that they are given this opportunity to fix their hormones rather than the pill to mask symptoms.
Now back to the MAP. Given that it is our only option for emergency contraception, for me, it is important to show you what you can (and should) do should you need to use it.
- Since all medications disrupt gut health, it’s important to support the body through this time. A quality pro-biotic is key to help support healthy gut flora. If you have a history of gut issues, it’s imperative that you care for both your microbiome (flora) as well as the gut wall itself. You can do this with collagen or zinc (or both) too.
- Get onto a quality multivitamin that will help keep your levels in check.
- This busting dose of hormones isn’t so kind to your liver. Your liver is responsible for hormone detoxification and given that it’s a huge dose of progesterone, it’s important to keep the liver happy. This is one of the reasons I made my ‘so simple yet so amazing’ balancing cleanse shake, as it contains simple ingredients that help to support gut and liver cleansing. Winning!
- Learn your rhythm. If you are relying on the MAP as contraception and you don’t actually understand your fertile times, that’s a lot of ‘crazy’ right there. Once you understand your fertility you can never not know, it’s like trying to forget how to ride a bike. Plus taking synthetic contraception all month round, for an event (ovulation) that happens only once every 28 days seems a little OTT (for me at least). I’ve got something to help, being World Contraception Day the good people at Daysy have come to the rescue with a discount to boot. Use the code ‘DR.NAT15’ at checkout and save 15% from today until the 2nd of October (OFFER EXTENDED!!). If you are unfamiliar with this device, you can read more here but it’s basically a fertility tracking device which is truthfully 99.3% effective.
- Barrier methods are life-saving. If you are having unprotected sex, please ask yourself if it is worth it. Not only can there be complications by taking large doses of hormones, unprotected sex can leave you vulnerable to STD’s that can leave you with lifelong illness. It might seem a little unromantic in the heat of the moment, but what’s more so, is having to explain the consequences over your lifetime. What’s more, an STD can be a fertility crusher leaving your hormones in a mess.