Scientists have found an interesting way to make emergency contraception pills work better. Taking a common painkiller with the morning-after pill Plan B can lower the chances of getting pregnant, according to their discovery.
In a recent study published in a journal called Lancet, researchers from Hong Kong and Sweden revealed something important. They gave women a prescription-only anti-inflammatory drug called piroxicam, along with the emergency contraceptive pill called levonorgestrel (you might know it as Plan B One-Step or other names).
Researchers found out that when these two pills were taken together, there were fewer pregnancies compared to when women took just the contraceptive pill and a fake pill (placebo).
What happened in the study?
Researchers used 860 women who needed a morning-after contraceptive pill after having unprotected sex. The research was conducted at the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong.
They divided these women into two groups. In one group, half of them took a special painkiller called piroxicam along with the levonorgestrel pill. The other half took the levonorgestrel pill with a fake pill.
The results of the research
Out of the women who took piroxicam, only one became pregnant. But in the group that took the fake pill, seven became pregnant. The researchers calculated that the combination of levonorgestrel and piroxicam prevented nearly 95% of anticipated pregnancies. Levonorgestrel alone only prevented around 63% of pregnancies.
The trick behind this discovery is piroxicam fights inflammation (when your body gets swollen and hurts). Another thing it does is to stop something called “ovulation“.
The emergency contraceptive works best if taken before ovulation. Because piroxicam stops ovulation, it makes the emergency contraceptive work even better.
Right now, doctors usually don’t tell people to take a painkiller along with the emergency contraceptive like they did in the study. Dr. Erica Cahill, who’s an expert on women’s health, said that this study is the first to show that this combination can prevent pregnancy better.
Dr. Raymond Li, the main researcher from the University of Hong Kong and Queen Mary Hospital, thinks that this mix of piroxicam and levonorgestrel could become a normal thing for doctors to use. But before that can happen, big health organizations like the World Health Organization need to look at all the evidence and decide if it’s safe and helpful.
Using painkillers for a long time can sometimes cause stomach problems, but in this study, they didn’t see that happening with just one dose of piroxicam.
The researchers picked piroxicam for the study because it lasts a long time in the body and helps with inflammation. But they’re not sure if other painkillers would work the same way. They want to do more research to find out if other painkillers can also make emergency contraception work better.
Researchers are also curious if this would work with different emergency contraceptive pills, not just levonorgestrel. This study was the first to look into combining a painkiller with an emergency contraceptive pill in a careful way.