“Here’s the bottom line: we know that sex happens,” Lisa Kane-Low, nurse, midwife and Women’s Studies lecturer, said yesterday at a teach-in about emergency contraception. The purpose of the event was to provide students with accurate information about their post-sex options for birth control.
Kane-Low was one of several presenters at the event, sponsored by Students for Choice and the Student Health Advisory Council.
Emergency contraception pills “are medication that prevent pregnancy after intercourse has already occurred,” said Susan Ernst, University Health Services director of gynecology. She added that the pills cause neither birth defects nor the termination of a preexisting pregnancy.
Ernst also presented information about Plan B, the emergency contraception pill that UHS prescribes. She said Plan B, a two-dose medication, can be up to 98 to 99 percent effective when taken within 72 hours of intercourse.
To demonstrate that publicity helps to educate more youth, Kane-Low referred to a certain emergency contraception hotline that was receiving an average of 133 calls per day. When the hotline ran a 30-second commercial on MTV for two days in a row, the number of calls increased to over 4000 per day. “There is clearly a need for information,” she said.
Availability of emergency contraception is no longer the problem, said Katrina Mann, graduate liaison with Students for Choice. She added, “People just need to know about this.”
Traci Jarrett, UHS sexual health advisor, told the audience that emergency contraception can produce unwanted side effects such as vomiting and nausea.
Emergency contraception “should not be used as your primary birth control method,” Jarrett said. She discussed several other forms of contraception including condoms, diaphragm/cervical caps, birth control pills, time-release hormonetreatments and hormone injections.
Jarrett added that when used correctly and all the time, non-emergency contraception methods are extremely effective.
Kane-Low also discussed the lack of information about emergency options. “Even when you make very informed choices and do the best you can, contraception can fail,” she said. “Knowledge is the key to more effective contraception.”
She added that “almost 20 percent of women use a contraceptive method that fails 50 percent of the time.”
Student Health Advisory Council member Vera Slywynsky said that among some of the nation’s top universities, “other schools are more progressive (than the University of Michigan) in contraception.”
UHS has been trying to change that, Slywynsky added, by educating the university community and making emergency contraceptives available to students.
“Over the last year, UHS has changed its policy on dispensing” the pills, Ernst said. She explained that they are available to students through a UHS prescription and on a walk-in basis.
Slywynsky added that keeping a prescription of emergency contraceptive is wise so students “can be prepared, just in case,” especially since UHS is not open on the weekends when emergencies may be more likely to occur.
Mike Ward, LSA senior and member of Students for Choice, said that he found the presentation informative.
“I’m pleased with the way UHS is responding to and handling” emergency contraception, he added. “They’ve made some good decisions this year and I hope that we will continue to see more progressive decisions.”