What Is An Emergency Contraceptive Pill?
Emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is a safe and an effective hormonal method of contraception that is used by women after having unprotected sex or when the use of any other birth control method have failed to prevent her from getting pregnant. These pills contain the same hormones found in contraceptive pills but in higher doses. It is also known as “morning after pill” or “post coital pill”.
As the name signifies emergency contraceptive pill is only meant for emergency situations. It is not for regular or repeated use and is only used to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and not to end one. These pills are effective if used within a limited frame of time after sexual exposure. We will say this again, these morning after pills should be used only in case of emergencies, as regular use can cause lifelong problems.
When Can I Use Emergency Contraceptive Pills?
Emergency contraceptives are to be used after unprotected sex if a woman doesn’t want to get pregnant from the sexual act. Other situations where you can use the contraceptive pills include-
- If in case you have not used the contraceptive method in voluntary sex
- If during sexual act there is a slippage, leakage or breakage of a condom
- Your partner did not pull himself out in time and ejaculated inside you
- If you have forgotten to take two or more birth control pills in a month
- If in case a woman is a victim of forced vaginal sex
- If in case you have miscalculated the infertility period when you are following the monthly periodic self-restraint method based upon your menstrual cycle
Whatever be the reason, a simple rule that works for emergency contraceptive pills is ‘the sooner the better’. The chances of your getting pregnant can be positively reduced to just 1% to 2% if you take a morning after pill soon after having unprotected sex.
What Are The Types Of Emergency Contraceptive Pills?
There are two types of emergency contraceptive pills (ECP):
- The yuzpe regime – pills that contain large doses of both estrogen and progesterone, must be taken in two doses. It is a less effective method
- Pills containing high dose of progesterone –levonorgestrel
However Levonorgestrel is the only regimen that has been approved in India to be used as an emergency contraception. Currently these pills are available at reasonable cost and can be bought by any pharmacist shops.
How Do Emergency Contraceptive Pills Work?
Basically, the morning after pills block or prevent a pregnancy. The exact mechanism of emergency contraceptive pills is still not been clear but there are many researches which have suggested that these pills prevent pregnancy by delaying or inhibiting ovulation.
There are various other studies which suggested that these contraceptive pills alter the inner lining of uterus (endometrium) and make them unsuitable for implantation and secondly they may even be responsible for preventing the transport of sperm and ovum.
Can Emergency Contraceptive Pills Induce Abortion?
It should be clearly understood that these pills can only help you with preventing unwanted pregnancy, if in case the implantation has already happened then they will no longer be effective as these pills do not abort an already established pregnancy. That means if you are pregnant already, the pills will not affect the implanted fetus.
How Effective Are Emergency Contraceptive Pills?
Emergency contraceptive pills are quite effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies if taken as prescribed. Also for their full effectiveness it’s important to take them within the short time frame of 72 hours, the best way will be to take them as early as possible.
However it is important to understand that no contraceptive method is 100% effective so slight risk will always be there.
What Are The Side Effects Of Oral Emergency Contraceptive Pills?
Generally emergency contraceptives have side effects similar like oral contraceptive pills such as nausea, vomiting, headache and dizziness. However they do not last for more than one or two days.
If in case vomiting has occurred after taking the pill than it’s advisable to take another dose of same pill. In order to reduce the risk of nausea you can also take the anti-nausea medicine. Largely, these morning after pills are considered safe and are used by millions of women around the world to prevent pregnancy. However, these pills are not suitable as a regular contraception method.
Are There Any Contraindications Of Emergency Contraceptive Pills?
The WHO has listed no medical contraindication for the use of emergency contraceptive pills. The use of emergency pill is quite safe even if a woman is pregnant. Emergency contraceptive pills do not harm the fetus but become ineffective if pregnancy has already occurred.
How Can I Buy Emergency Contraceptive Pills?
These pills are available at almost all pharmacists and chemists across the country, though in some cases a prescription from the doctor is mandatory. There are several types of brands available in market for contraceptive pills and doses of each depends upon the which type of pill you are taking – a single pill or a dose of two pills. However irrespective of what pill or brand you are taking, the first pill or dose should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex and the second dose should be consumed within exact 12 hours of first dose. For higher efficacy, it is advised to take it as early as possible. Click here to read about the brands of emergency contraceptive pills in India.
Use of emergency contraceptive pills has empowered the thousands of women from unplanned and unwanted pregnancy which in turn has decreased the rate of unsafe abortions in our society. There is also need of raised public awareness about usage of these pills, so that instead of being misunderstood they can be used as a potential health benefit for the reproductive health of women.
Please note that this article is presented for informational purposes only, do seek your doctor’s opinion.