Emergency contraception refers to method of contraception that can be used to prevent unwanted pregnancy after an unprotected or inadequately protected sexual act.
Most women seeking emergency contraception typically are younger than 28 years, have never been pregnant, and are unaware of methods of birth control.
This post will give you some insight about the usage, methods, benefits, timing, failures and risks involved with using emergency contraceptives.
WHEN TO USE EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION?
Common indications for using emergency contraception can be:
- Unprotected sex (no condom or other birth control method was used when you had vaginal sex)
- Messing up with regular birth control (forgot to take your birth control pills, change your patch or ring, or get your shot on time, condom broke or slipped off, your partner didn't pull out in time)
- Forced unprotected vaginal sex (in cases of sexual abuse)
TIMING OF EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
Emergency contraceptives can be used within 5 days or 120 hrs of an unprotected act. However the method of contraception in this situation varies with most pills being able to protect till 72 hrs and IUD after that.
METHODS OF EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION and EFFECTIVENESS
Popularly known as plan B or morning after pill (available with trade name I pill , Unwanted 72 , smart 72 ) , pills containing Levonorgestrel are to be taken within 72 hrs of an unprotected sex.
Although they are available over the counter, it is always better to seek advice from a gynaecologist before taking these so that you are aware of side effects, when to take and how to take.
Failure rates of pills are approximately 5 percent.
Multiload or intrauterine contraception devices are more effective than pills in preventing a pregnancy in these situations.
Also they can be used upto 120 hrs or 5 days.
They are successful in preventing pregnancy in 98 out of every 100 women using it as emergency contraceptive.
This is another emergency contraception pill which has ulipristal acetate as active content. This pill gives protection for even 120 hrs after an unprotected act.
Currently Ellaone is unavailable in INDIA.
SHOULD EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION PILLS BE TAKEN WITHOUT DOCTORS ADVICE?
Often this question comes to the mind of all couples . However the anxiety and fear of pregnancy provoke them to take emergency contraception pills without consulting any doctor and even many pills in a single cycle. Another reason for doing this is the cultural upbringing that they feel it awkward to discuss things in details with a doctor especially if they are an unmarried couple.
It is very important to understand that all emergency contraception pills are hormonal pills. They have different action when taken in different phases of menstrual cycle.
So it is important to discuss with a gynaecologist before taking these pills
Like any other medication all emergency contraception pills have side effects like gastritis , nausea , vomiting , fever , bodyache , breast heaviness , breast tenderness , irregular periods , delayed next periods etc.
As discussed earlier as well, the failure rates of emergency contraception pills are 5 percent.
So pregnancy can occur even after intake of these pills. Having withdrawal bleeding or breakthrough bleeding after taking these doesn't mean that pregnancy is reasonably ruled out.
Best is to do a beta hcg blood test approximately 15 days from date of unprotected act to be sure of no pregnancy.
If test is positive, see a gynaecologist at the earliest as these pills have been associated with more chances of ectopic pregnancies as well.
Failure rates increases with multiple acts of unprotected sexual intercourse and also on intake of repeated emergency contraception pills.
HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH IS A BETTER OPTION?
Well the choice depends on a lot of things. However in general if you are obese and weight is over 60 kg , emergency pills may not work well for you. Also there are few medications with which there can be drug interaction which can lower efficacy of contraception pills.
If the frequency of sex is more than once or twice in 2 to 3 months, repeated intake of these pills can make your menstrual cycles irregular. Better go for regular pills or IUD.
So I would like to sum up saying that for best practice before being sexually active think about options of contraception and discuss with your doctor in details .
Even emergency contraception methods have failure rates so beware of it.
Do not hesitate in seeking opinion from an expert in case of any doubts.