This article contains the latest news on the side effects of the ella birth control pill and contraceptive information.
The Food and Drug Administration has just approved a five-day abortifacient and contraception pill called ella (ellaOne in the European Union), from HRA Pharma. The pill, already available in 22 countries, will give women the option of terminating a possible pregnancy for a full five days after unprotected intercourse. Ella, ulipristal acetate, offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections, nor does it prevent the egg from being fertilized. This means that any woman using this must still be appropriately tested and treated for any resulting STDs and should be aware that this pill is not birth control in the traditional sense.
According to marketing literature, Ella works by supressing and delaying the ovaries from releasing an egg with a massive dose of progesterone. Similar in nature to RU-486, the French abortion pill that is effective for nine weeks after intercourse, ella can also prevent an already released, fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of uterus and is also capable of killing an implanted embryo. (A fertilized egg typically takes up to 5 to 10 days to implant in the lining of the uterus.)
A doctor must perform a pregnancy test before prescribing ella. If the pregnacy test is negative, then ella can be used. What this supposed safeguard method does not address is the fact that the majority of pregnancies do not produce adequate levels of hormones(hCG) to test positive until at least two weeks after conception.* Countless established pregnancies will be terminated due to this flaw in the system.
Another similar contraception and abortifacient drug, Plan B, made by Teva Pharmaceuticals, works in a similar fashion, but is only effective for 72 hours, at most. In a study conducted by the manufacturer of ella, Plan B prevented implantation and pregnancy 97.4% of the time, while ella had an effectiveness rate of 98.2%.
Although Plan B is already made available over the counter to adults without a prescription, the makers of ella have yet to request over the counter status for their drug. Ulipristal acetate (ella) has undergone minimal safety testing. Of the 5,000 women tested in North America and Europe, no deaths occurred and the most commonly reported side effects were abdominal pain(more than 10%), vomiting, infections, headache, dizziness, changes in mood and appetite, nausea, and fatigue. Irregular, heavy, and painful menstrual periods were also reported. Less common, but more bothersome side effects of the ella contraception pill: blurred vision, vertigo, fever, toothache, feminine discharge and pain, kidney problems, nosebleeds, insomnia, and significant depression and anxiety.
The true danger to women is that ella is being marketed as less aggressive, with fewer side effects than RU-486, but more effective than the small window of protection provided by Plan B. This will no doubt entice many women to request the "contraceptive pill" for a seemingly lower risk method of medical (drug-induced) abortion in contrast to invasive surgical abortion.
*This is a conservative estimate - WomensHealth.gov, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, recommends waiting for at least one week past a missed period to get an accurate pregnancy test. This puts the official timetable at three weeks post-conception for the majority of pregnant women to obtain a positive pregnancy test.