The Italian Almanac

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The Day After

Image-conscious teens in Italy are opting for the morning-after pill instead of taking regular contraceptive medication because they are worried about getting fat, Italian gynaecologists warned. Speaking at the European Contraception Congress in Prague, Rossella Nappa of Pavia University said the consumption of the morning-after pill has risen by 60% since it was first introduced in Italy in 2000.

Teenagers are a growing market for the powerful emergency contraception method, which can significantly reduce the chance of pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex. In 2006 over half of the 320,000 pills sold were to girls under the age of 20, according to Nappa. Side-effects of the morning-after pill include nausea, dizziness and abdominal pain. ''Girls often underestimate the impact of the pill, which is a real hormonal shock,'' she added.

Nappa said that myths surrounding the normal, low-dosage contraceptive pill, which is taken on a daily basis as part of a controlled programme, is holding teenagers back from using safer methods to prevent unwanted pregnancies. ''The fear of getting fat is one of the things that discourages young people from using the contraceptive pill and leads them to try other, less reliable methods,'' she explained. ''But today thanks to the fourth generation drugs, the risk of putting the pounds on is completely groundless. We have to spend time trying to get positive messages across to women''.