Shocking news has arrived that the morning after pill otherwise known as Plan B or Emergency Contraception (EC) is not effective on many women. The reasoning for this is weight. According to studies done by a European company called Norlevo, that produces EC, the pill is not effective on women over 176 pounds and is less effective on women over 165 pounds.
The reason this is so shocking is that many women are over those two weights. This is due to the hormone levonorgestrel, which will loose it’s effectiveness. Levonorgestrel is used in all EC in Canada and used in almost all EC around the world. Mother Jones who broke the news of this story first, found this information on the weight of women in America:
Data for the years 2007 to 2010 show the average weight of American women 20 years and older is 166.2 pounds—greater than the weight at which emergency contraceptive pills that use levonorgestrel begin to lose their effectiveness. The average weight of non-Hispanic black women aged 20 to 39 is 186 pounds, well above the weight at which these pills are completely ineffective. A CDC survey published in February found that 5.8 million American women used emergency contraceptive pills from 2006 to 2010.
This means that the average woman in the United States is unlikely to be able to use EC effectively. Access to EC and other reproductive technologies that work is vitally important for women. Women need the ability to prevent pregnancy as part of their reproductive rights.
According to one source the average weight of the Canadian woman is 153 pounds but according to Macleans magazine the average is 155 pounds, just on the border of being able to use effective EC. But with average Canadians of all weights having sex at least once a week there are bound to be some mistakes.
With 65% of 18-19 year olds and 29% of 15-17 year olds being sexually active and about 35% of Canadians aged 15-24 not using condoms and having unprotected sex, there is most defiantly a need for effective EC. If you do not use protection you can get pregnant, but when something goes wrong with protection EC has always been a way for Canadian women to prevent pregnancy. Although I have been unable to find statistics on how often EC is used in Canada it is still used, and it shouldn’t matter if one or a thousand women use it every year it should always be effective.
Many women who use EC are scared, they are using EC because they had unprotected sex, which rarely happens on purpose. These women are trying to take control of their bodies and prevent an unwanted pregnancy. If the pill they take doesn’t tell them it wont work they will not be able to prevent pregnancy in other ways and may end up with an unwanted pregnancy and/or an unwanted abortion.
If EC is not going to be effective on all women it needs to be labeled so women will be better able to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy. Norlevo sells EC in many European and Asian countries and has no set timeline on when they will change the labelling of their product to display this new information or even if they will display it in non European companies at all. American companies, such as the producer of Pan B One Step (sold in Canada and the US), have not commented on whether they will be changing their labelling or if they will be doing any tests on their own products to asses effectiveness based on weight.
One thing that women who are over 165 pounds can do to prevent an unwanted pregnancy is use an IUD as a form of emergency contraception. There are both hormonal and non hormonal IUDs available. The problem with IUD is it is not as easily accessible as EC and is invasive. A doctor must insert the IUD into your body. IUD’s can also be costly, especially in the US, but IUD can be left in after being used as a form of emergency contraception. IUD is also a form of birth control, and can stay affective at preventing pregnancy for 3-10 years depending on the form used.