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Beginner's Guide to Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Emergency contraceptive pills, also known as the "morning after pill" is a form of birth control that can be used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse. Emergency contraception is an umbrella term for medications and devices that are taken by someone who doesn't want to get pregnant at that very moment. Emergency contraceptives cannot protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV/ AIDS. Emergency contraceptive pills are intended to be used only in emergency situations and should not replace your regular birth control method.

Different forms of Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Emergency contraceptive pills come in two forms; Emergency Contraceptive Pills that contain only progestin (levonorgestrel) or Emergency Contraceptive Pills that contain both estrogen and progestin (Yuzpe Method). Progestin is a synthetic hormone often referred to as the 'mini-pill' or 'morning after pill.' Its side effects include nausea, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, fatigue, irregular menstruation and some mood changes. Emergency contraceptive pills that contain estrogen have more side effects including nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, headaches and stomach aches.

Dr. Christine Gebbie of the FDA states Emergency Contraceptive Pills are safe for women to use as often as necessary but no more than once every 3 days. Emergency contraceptives are designed to be used in emergencies not on a routine basis. Emergency contraception is NOT an abortion pill. Emergency contraceptives are estimated to reduce the risk of pregnancy following unprotected sex by approximately 75% within the first 24 hours after intercourse. Emergency contraceptives can be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription at most drug stores or online. Emergency contraceptives are NOT the same as RU-486, "the abortion pill", Emergency contraceptives will not cause an abortion. Emergency contraceptive pills may cause you to have a period early or late but this is because Emergency Contraceptive Pills alter your regular menstrual cycle. Emergency Contraceptive Pills do NOT cause birth defects, so if you are already pregnant it won't hurt the baby.

Facts about the pill

  • Approximately 3.4 million women use Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs) every year in the U.S alone.

  • Emergency contraception, which has been available since 1988, can prevent pregnancy by either delaying ovulation or by altering the lining of the uterus.

  • Emergency contraceptives have a success rate of over 90% when taken within 24 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse.

  • When taken correctly, Emergency Contraceptive pills have few side effects and are safe for most women to use.

  • Emergency contraceptive pills should not be used as a regular birth control method because they can be expensive and fail in up to 5% of cases when taken after ovulation has already occurred.

  • Emergency contraceptives will NOT terminate a pregnancy once a fertilized egg has implanted into the uterine wall.

Can Emergency Pill result in abortion?

Emergency contraceptive pills are often mistaken as abortion pill. Emergency contraceptive pills do not cause abortion. Emergency contraceptive pill is a backup method to prevent pregnancy if regular contraception fails or is forgotten, for example condom slips off during intercourse, birth control pills are missed etc. Emergency contraceptive pill prevents fertilization of eggs by acting on the hormonal changes that take place after unprotected sex and lead to implantation of the egg in the uterus.

In case of i-pill , it must be taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse but still there may be a chance for a woman to get pregnant even up to 5 days after coitus. Emergency contraceptive pill does not contain any hormones so women need not worry about health risks associated with contraceptives containing estrogen or progesterone such as birth control pills. Emergency contraceptive pill is a safe and healthy way to prevent pregnancy after unwanted sexual contact. Emergency contraceptive pill contains levonorgestrel which is a progesterone-type hormone that prevents fertilization by blocking ovulation or implantation of the egg in the uterus. Emergency contraceptive pill prevents pregnancy only if it is taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, but it may be effective even up to 5 days after coitus . It can be used regularly as a means of contraception from time to time when necessary instead of taking birth control pills regularly, for example when traveling or during periods when regular contraceptives run out or break during intercourse.


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