COMING TO THE RESCUE
Emergency contraceptives are often called the morning after pill. They were invented for exactly that, the morning after the night before when something did not quite go to plan. Accidents happen in all walks of life and sex is no different. Emergency contraceptives (morning after pill) can offer you a second chance to prevent pregnancy after having had unprotected sex.
An emergency pill typically contains hormones that are similar to oral contraceptives, but are much higher dosed. It works mainly by stopping or delaying the ovaries from releasing an egg. It may also work by changing the lining of the womb that may prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. For the best chance for it to work, you should take the emergency pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Ideally you should take it up to 12 hours after you’ve had unprotected sex but if it’s taken more than 24 hours after unprotected sex, it’s already much less effective.
Emergency contraception is most effective when taken within 12-24 hours after unprotected sex. There are 2 types of emergency pills in the market: the emergency contraceptive pill containing levonorgestrel (LNG) and the emergency contraceptive pill containing ulipristal acetate (UPA). For the best chance for it to work, you should take the emergency pill as soon as possible. Efficacy changes over time: while it’s 95% effective within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex, that number drops to 58% when the pill is taken within 49-72 hours.
The levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill should not be used in the same menstrual cycle as ulipristal acetate. After using emergency contraception you should use another form of contraception for the rest of your cycle to protect yourself if you do not want to become pregnant.
Emergency contraceptives (the morning after pill) are not like the other contraception methods. Emergency contraception should never be the contraception that you choose to use regularly, it is not a method that you pick and say, “I think this is the one for me, I’ll take 10 please”. Emergency contraception is a back-up method only for emergencies, for that one time the condom broke, or the diaphragm slipped or other genuine accidents or unforeseen circumstances. If you’re unfortunate enough to have one of these, immediately visit your healthcare provider to seek further advice. Don’t forget to get yourself tested for STIs, too. These unfortunate accidents expose you to those as well as unplanned pregnancy.
PROS / CONS
- It helps prevent pregnancy after birth control failure or unprotected sex
- Most effective only when used within 24 hours after unprotected sex
- It contains a high dose of hormones (>10 times higher compared to the pill) in one pill
- Using it repeatedly can interrupt the natural menstrual cycle
- It may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, menstrual pain, tiredness, dizziness, fatigue
- Does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Emergency contraception (morning after pill) is most effective when taken within 12-24 hours after unprotected sex. Efficacy changes over time: while it’s 95% effective within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex, that number drops to 58% when the pill is taken within 49-72 hours. For the best chance for it to work, you should take the emergency pill as soon as possible.
Yes, you can use the emergency pill if something has gone wrong with your usual form of contraception, for example a forgotten pill (only if the intake is more than 48 hours ago) or split condom.
Women who take ECPs should understand that they could become pregnant the next time they have sex unless they begin to use another method of contraception at once. Because ECPs delay ovulation in some women, she may be most fertile soon after taking ECPs. If she wants ongoing protection from pregnancy, she must start using another contraceptive method at once.
Repeated administration within a menstrual cycle is not advisable because of the possibility of disturbance of the cycle and a very high hormone dose. The emergency pill (morning after pill) should not be relied on as a regular form of contraception, and it is not as effective as other forms of hormonal contraception specifically made for regular use - it is only intended as a back-up.
No. Emergency contraceptives (morning after pill) do not work if a woman is already pregnant. When taken before a woman has ovulated, emergency pills prevent the release of an egg from the ovary or delay its release by 5 to 7 days. By then, any sperm in the woman's reproductive tract will have died, since sperm can survive there for only about 6 days.