Pregnant pause

Milk spills, computer files get lost, condoms break. Accidents happen, but pregnancy doesn’t have to.

So says Lorrie Harris-Sagaribay, program manager for Population Services International’s Sacramento branch, a nonprofit organization that specializes in reproductive health education.

PSI—in collaboration with Planned Parenthood, the Sacramento Department of Health and Human Services and other groups—has launched a campaign to bring awareness to area women, especially teens, about emergency contraception.

“It reminds women that they have a second chance to prevent pregnancy—that there’s an option,” Harris-Sagaribay says.

While the controversial abortion pill RU-486 has only recently gained Food and Drug Administration approval, the so-called “morning-after” pill has been on the market for 30 years. If taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, the pills are said to be 85 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.

Yet a study conducted by PSI last year found that half of all women surveyed didn’t know emergency contraception pills existed and that those who did weren’t aware of how they could obtain them, Harris-Sagaribay reports.

To change that, PSI’s $75,000 campaign pays for at least four months of radio spots on local stations, as well as posters and wallet-size cards that provide basic information about the pills and how to get them.

“Many women don’t hear about emergency contraception pills unless they specifically ask their doctor,” Harris-Sagaribay says, noting that the campaign seeks to reach out to doctors and public health clinics as well.

According to Dr. Glennah Trochet, health officer for Sacramento County, more than 2,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth in 1998—a number she and other health officials hope will decline as a result of campaign efforts.

“Even a 10 percent reduction would be significant,” Trochet says, adding that if the message gets heard, abortions should drop as well.

Emergency contraception works by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

Agustin Arellano, clinic manager for Planned Parenthood’s South Sacramento clinic, believes that in his center alone, 50 percent of unplanned pregnancies could be prevented if women became aware that this method existed.

“Most women wait until they’ve missed a period to come in and get a pregnancy test,” Arellano says. “By then, it’s been about three weeks, and I’d say 80 percent of them didn’t know they could have taken emergency contraception [directly] afterwards.”

Because emergency contraception is covered by Medi-Cal and other state programs, as well as by many HMOs, cost should not be a barrier to access, providers say.

For more information about emergency contraception and how to get it, contact your doctor or call 1(888) Not2Late.