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Posted on: March 19, 2020

In this day and age, there is an increasing amount of contraceptive methods that are tailored to the needs of each woman. There are all kinds but always with one goal in mind: to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

The Difference Between Birth Control Pills and Emergency Pills


What are the differences between birth control pills and emergency contraception (morning-after pills)?

Birth control pills (oral contraceptives) and emergency pills are birth control methods to prevent pregnancy.

Birth control pills are taken regularly to prevent pregnancy, while emergency pill is emergency contraception (“the morning after pill”) used as backup contraception to prevent pregnancy when taken within 72 hours after unprotected sex or when birth control fails1.

However, the long-term consumption of emergency pills is less effective as compared to other contraceptive methods. Frequent use of emergency pills would result in higher level of hormones in the body, causing irregular menstruation2.

The Difference Between Birth Control Pills and Emergency Pills


Who should take them?

For women who’ve had unprotected sex, or experienced birth control failure3. Forgetting to take a birth control pill or having a condom break during sex are examples of contraception failure4. Keep these points in mind when deciding if the morning-after pill is the right step for you.

How does each method work?

The birth control pill stops the sperm from joining with the egg, hence preventing ovulation. No ovulation means there’s no egg for sperm to fertilize, so pregnancy can’t happen5. The pill’shormones also thicken the mucus on the cervix. This thicker cervical mucus blocks sperm so it can’t swim to an egg — like a sticky security guard.

Whereas the emergency pill, if taken within 72 hours (3 days) and preferably within 12 hours after a contraceptive accident or unprotected sex, can prevent pregnancy6. This what it does: temporarily stops the release of an egg from the ovary, prevents fertilization, and prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

When and how are they taken?

Many of the birth control pills come in easy-to-use dispensers in which the day of the week or a consecutive number (1, 2, 3, etc.) is written on the dispenser with a corresponding tablet for each day or number.

For example, some dispensers are labelled "Sunday" next to the first tablet. Thus, the first tablet is to be taken on the first Sunday after menstruation begins (the first Sunday following the first day of a woman's period). If your period begins on Sunday, the first tablet should be taken on that day.

For birth control pills that use consecutive numbers, the first tablet (#1) is taken on the first day of the menstrual period (the first day of bleeding). Tablet #2 is taken on the second day and so on.

Still, other packages instruct women to begin on day five of the cycle. For such products, women count from day one of their menstrual cycle (day one is the first day of bleeding). On the fifth day, the first tablet is taken. Tablets then are taken daily.

Most birth control pills are packaged as 21-day or 28-day units. For 21-day packages, tablets are taken daily for 21 days. This is followed by a seven-day period during which no birth control pills are taken. Then the cycle repeats. For the 28-day units, tablets containing medication are taken for 21 consecutive days, followed by a seven-day period during which placebo tablets (containing no medication) are taken.

Pregnancy may result if you forget to take the pill7. Pop a pill as soon as you realise that you missed out one. If more than one tablet is forgotten, check the packaging instructions about the next step or consult a pharmacist.

Emergency contraception pills, on the other hand, should be taken as soon as possible and not more than 72 hours after unprotected sex or when birth control fails. Single-dose regimen: Take one 1.5 mg tablet as soon as possible within 72 hours of unprotected sex or when birth control fails.


The Difference Between Birth Control Pills and Emergency Pills


Are you looking for a long-term contraceptive method?

Different contraceptive methods suit different lifestyles, life stages, and needs. Prolonged use of emergency pills is not the best option in preventing pregnancies8. It only applies when unprotected sex happens.

Hence, it’s better to switch to birth control pills without compromising the effectiveness of contraception. Consult a doctor or pharmacist for further information today.