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Emergency Contraceptive Pills (Morning After Pill)

Emergency Contraceptive Pills (Morning After Pill)

What are Emergency Contraceptive Pills?

Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs), also known as the Morning-after pill, Plan B, or post-coital contraceptives, are pills that help a woman avoid pregnancy after having sex without any form of contraception or if the contraception fails. Depending on where you live, you may have multiple types of ECPs to choose from. Most types work up to five days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex, but the sooner they are taken, the more effective they are. Depending on where you are, you can easily buy Emergency contraceptive pills in a single-pill or two-Pills dosage. Both the two-pill and one-pill regimens are equally effective.

How does Emergency Contraception work?

Emergency contraception is designed to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex; either by delaying ovulation or by stopping the Implantation of a fertilized egg. It comes in form of the emergency contraceptive pills or Intra-Uterine Devices.

Emergency Contraceptive pills(ECPs) only work by preventing the release of an egg from the ovaries(ovulation). They cannot work after a pregnancy has already occurred. This means that they are completely different from abortion pills. An ECP cannot stop a developing pregnancy or destroy an embryo [1].

Intra-Uterine Devices(IUDs) as Emergency contraception work by preventing implantation. If you need emergency contraception and want a very effective and longer-lasting solution, the Copper IUD is the most effective option. This emergency contraception can be inserted in the uterus up to five days after unprotected sex. Thereafter, you will have an easy and super-effective method for up to 12 years.

There are three types of Emergency Contraceptive Pills.

Ulipristal acetate (UPA) pills

Taken as a single dose of one pill. This new form of emergency contraceptive is a one-pill dose that works up to five days after unprotected sex and, unlike other EC pills, it won’t decrease in effectiveness during those five days. Ulipristal is available in most countries, with or without a prescription.

Levonorgestrel pills.

Taken as either a single dose or two doses that are taken 12 hours apart. Examples include the Lydia Postpil, Postinor 2, Norpill, Unwanted72, Nowill Pill, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice, My Way, After Pill, and Levonorgestrel. Depending on your country of residence, these may be available over the counter with or without a prescription. They are similar to other contraceptive pills but contain much higher doses of hormones

Combined oral Contraceptive pills.

Contain estrogen and progestin – norgestrel, levonorgestrel, or norethindrone (also called norethisterone). Some types of regular contraceptive pills can be used as emergency contraception. If you go that route, which is called the Yuzpe regimen, you need to take the pills in two doses, 12 hours apart. And it only works with certain brands of pills. It is also not as effective as other EC options. It works best for up to three days following unprotected sex [2].

ECPs are safe for any woman or girl, even those who cannot use an ongoing hormonal form of contraceptive. They can be used in several circumstances, including:

1. when no form of contraception was used during sexual intercourse. If you did not use any protection during sex and do not want to get pregnant, make sure you use emergency contraception within five days of having unprotected sex.

2. after sexual assault (if you have been raped or have had sex with someone who refused to use any protective form of contraception).
3. if there are concerns that the contraceptive being used might have failed due to incorrect or improper use, such as

– incorrect usage of condoms, breakage, or slippage;

– withdrawal went wrong;

-if the intrauterine device(IUD) or contraceptive implant came out;

-miscalculation of safe days or failure to use a barrier method during unsafe days;

-when you are more than seven days late for your combined contraceptive injection;

-when you are more than four weeks late for your progestin-only DMPA (3-month) injection;

-when you are more than two weeks late for your progestin-only NET-EN (2-month) injection;

-when you are more than three hours late from the usual time you take the Progestin-only pill (mini-pill) or it’s 27 hours since you took the last one; and

– when you have missed taking your Combined Oral Contraceptive pills for three consecutive days or you are three days late in taking the pill during the first week of the cycle [3].

What do the Emergency contraceptive Pills look like?

How are the Emergency Contraceptive Pills taken?

Once you or your healthcare provider has determined that your circumstances require that you take an emergency contraceptive, you can take the pill right away. The pill can be obtained from a healthcare facility or at most pharmacies near you without a prescription.
If you buy a one-pill package, all you need to do is to swallow it with water and that’s the end of the process.
If you buy a 2-pill package, you will need to take the first pill, wait for 12 hours, and then take the second pill.

When should I take the Morning-after pill?

For the greatest effectiveness, all types of ECPs should be taken as soon as possible. Ulipristal acetate ECPs may be more effective than other ECPs in preventing pregnancy, even when it is between 72 and 120 hours after unprotected sex. While the levonorgestrel ECPs are equally effective and can work up to five days after unprotected sex, the effectiveness decreases each day. If you want to use this method, you should use it as soon as possible after unprotected sex.

Important tips

Remember: Use an ECP as soon as possible after you have had unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the better – within 24 hours to three days is ideal. Emergency contraception will still reduce your risk of pregnancy for up to five days.
Always keep some emergency contraceptive pills on hand. The sooner you use emergency contraception, the more effective it is. So it is not a bad idea to keep a box of emergency contraceptive pills, just in case.
If you take Ulipristal acetate ECPs while breastfeeding, it is recommended that you do not breastfeed your baby. Instead, you should express and dump the milk for seven days after taking the pills.
The side effects you experience may not be the same as those of another person. Everyone is different.

How long does the Morning-after pill delay ovulation?

The Morning-after pill prevents or delays ovulation by 5-7 days. This gives any sperm within the woman’s body adequate time to die. Sperm can survive in a woman’s reproductive tract for up to 5 days. Where the egg has already been released, ECP cannot prevent implantation or terminate an already existing pregnancy.

Will the Morning-after pill work if I have already ovulated?

No. The Morning-after pill works by delaying ovulation. If ovulation has already occurred, you might still get pregnant, even after using the pill. The best method of an emergency contraceptive to use during ovulation or after ovulation is the non-hormonal (copper) IUD since it can prevent implantation from happening. You will, however, need to make an appointment with a healthcare provider to have the insertion procedure. It will work if inserted within five days of having unprotected sex, by lowering your chances of getting pregnant by 99.9%. [5].

Contraception Quiz

Not sure on the method? - Take our dynamic Contraception Quiz.
When it comes to sex, protection is as important as pleasure. But what should one do to start their safe sex journey? Answer some simple questions and based on the responses, we will recommend the next steps.

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External Condom

Compare with similar Contraceptive Methods

Are you wondering if condoms are better than daily pills? Or if you should opt for a birth control implant? We're here to assist you in making this decision. You can select up to 5 contraceptive methods and compare them side by side to weigh the pros and cons of each.

Give a try to our Contraceptive Tool

In the example below, you'll find similar methods to the one you're currently reading about. Feel free to click on any that catch your interest or revisit our Contraceptive Methods page

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