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The Backup Plan: "ella"

A new 5-day emergency contraceptive gets the go-ahead from the FDA. Would you use it?

Accidents happen -- a ripped condom, a forgotten pill. And when they do, some couples choose to reduce the risk of pregnancy by using an emergency contraceptive. Up until now, Plan B (often referred to as the morning-after pill) has been the go-to “oops” pill, but ella, an EC approved by the FDA on August 13, has proven to be even more effective.

Here’s the deal: Ella works similarly to Plan B -- a pill is taken shortly after sex that decreases the likelihood of pregnancy by messing with hormone levels. The major difference between the two is that ella works just as well five days post-sex as it does an hour after the deed while Plan B loses effectiveness as time passes and has to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. The catch is that Plan B is available over the counter to women over the age of 17, so if you catch your mistake early, you can just go to the pharmacy and pick it up. Ella, on the other hand, is prescription only.

The controversy surrounding ella is also similar to the stir Plan B caused when the FDA approved it over 10 years ago. Scientists know that ella blocks progesterone, which is the hormone responsible for ovulation. What’s not clear is whether or not the pill prevents ovulation from occurring (meaning there’s no chance for the egg and sperm to even connect) or if it prevents implantation (keeping an already fertilized egg from staying safely in the womb). For the latter, opponents of ella and other EC’s have argued that it’s the same thing as an abortion while proponents say there’s no evidence that if taken within five days of intercourse there’s any difference between ella and any other contraceptive.

The drug, which is currently available in 22 countries, is scheduled to be released in the US by the end of the year. Minor side effects can include headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, painful period cramps, fatigue, and dizziness. According to HRA Pharma, the Paris-based pharmaceutical company that currently distributes the drug in Europe, ella has no harmful effects.

So what do you think: Would you use an EC to avoid an unplanned pregnancy, or is ella out of your comfort zone? Have you and your partner discussed how you would handle an unplanned pregnancy? Share your comments below -- we want to hear what you have to say.

-- The Nest Editors

See More: Love & Sex , Sex Q&A