1) What is Emergency Contraceptive Pill and what does it do?

Emergency Contraceptive Pill is supposed to prevent unintended pregnancy after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure.

2 ) How does Emergency Contraceptive Pill work ?

First- you should know the very basic of how a woman gets pregnant:

-Every month, for a woman the menstrual period will last for 3-5 days

-Afterwards comes stage of folliculogenesis i.e. maturation of ova or egg till day 14-15

- Around middle of cycle there is release of ova from follicle of ovary.

-Meeting of ova and sperm happens in Fallopian tube with starting of life I.e. formation of embryo.

-Embryo travels through the Fallopian tube, comes to the uterine cavity, & gets attached to the endometrium i.e. the lining of the uterus known as implantation and life starts.   

Now- we will discuss, how Emergency Contraceptive Pill works-

- Emergency Contraceptive Pill will stop the egg from being released from the ovary (prevention of ovulation)

-If ovulation has already happened it will prevent sperm from attaching to the ova.

- It makes endometrium unsuitable for implantation.What it can not do-

-If pregnancy is already established in the uterus i.e. implantation has happened, Emergency Contraceptive Pill cannot prevent it from growing neither can cause menses to come.


-This notion that it will remove pregnancy is the most important reason for “perceived” failure of Emergency Contraceptive Pill 

3) What are the circumstances in which Emergency Contraceptive Pill can be used?   

Please note that Emergency Contraceptive Pill should be used as ‘BACK UP METHOD OF BIRTH CONTROL’ and ‘NOT A SUBSTITUTE OF REGULAR BIRTH CONTROL METHOD’

It can be used under following circumstances-

1) Male contraceptive failure- e. g. leakage/ tear / improper use of condom

2) Female forgot to take daily dose of regular oral contraceptive pill

3) Spontaneous / unnoticed expulsion of IUCD- Intra Uterine Contraceptive Device (Copper-T)

4) Unprotected sex- couple did not use any method to protect themselves

5) Forced sex – e.g. Rape

4) Is Emergency Contraceptive Pill safe to use?

Emergency Contraceptive Pill has approval from proper authorities, if taken for approved indications.

5) How effective is Emergency Contraceptive Pill?     

The effectiveness of Emergency Contraceptive Pill is-95 % when taken within 12 hours-85 % when taken within 25-48 hours-58 % when taken within 49-72 hours

6) What are the side effects of Emergency Contraceptive Pill?

Common side effects are:

1) Nausea, vomiting, headache

2) Lower abdominal pain and breast tenderness

3) Unexpected vaginal bleeding- this one is the most common side effect that brings woman to the OPD. It is expected to settle down by next menstrual cycle but at times requires medicinal support to control bleeding like- Antifibrinolytics, high doses of hormone – progesterone and Ormeloxifene.

WORD OF CAUTION- It is seen that many couples will use Emergency Contraceptive Pill, repeatedly, indiscriminately & without consulting Gynecologist or family doctor. These women may face severe side effects like intractable (Unstoppable) vaginal bleeding which proves very difficult to manage & control & is quite debilitating for the woman’s health.

If despite taking Emergency Contraceptive Pill - woman misses her menses, how can we know whether she is pregnant or not?

If woman misses her periods after taking Emergency Contraceptive Pill, she should do urine pregnancy test & Beta HCG test in blood to check if she has become pregnant.Decision to continue with pregnancy or terminate can be taken after discussion with the Gynecologist.

8) If more than 72 hours have passed since unprotected sex, will Emergency Contraceptive Pill still work?         Emergency Contraceptive Pill is designed to work within certain time frame. If this is exceeded, you should consult your Gynecologist and consider option options.

9) Can Emergency Contraceptive Pill be used as regular birth control pill?

No woman should replace her regular birth control pill or OC Pill with Emergency Contraceptive Pill. Think about the irregular bleeding that happens after taking it. Also, protection rate is not 100 %. Regular birth control pills when taken as prescribed, on one hand provide 100 % protection & on top of that give extra benefit of regularization of cycles.

10) How often Emergency Contraceptive Pill can be used?

As the name suggests, it is for emergency only and THAT should arise only once in a while.Couples should take care of themselves by using one of regular methods of contraception. 

11) What are the points I should clearly understand before I take Emergency Contraceptive Pill?

Following points you should remember:

1) Emergency Contraceptive Pill will not work for you if you are already pregnant.

2) It should not be used as regular birth control method owing to its too many side effects & higher failure rates.

3) It doesn’t protect against HIV/ AIDS or any other STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease).

12) How is Emergency Contraceptive Pill different from abortion pill?

Both of them work in diametrically opposite way. Emergency Contraceptive Pill is designed so that it prevents the starting of pregnancy.Whereas if pregnancy has already occurred then only abortion pills will work on it and aid in removing it.

Will Emergency Contraceptive Pill still be effective if several acts of unprotected intercourse have happened in a short duration of time?

We have already discussed the time span & effectiveness of EC. For several acts to happen, time span will naturally increase & hence the effectiveness will go down. Anyway, by indulging in several acts the very basic fundamental concept of ‘Emergency’ is forfeited. It can be used but with clear understanding & after consultation with a Gynecologist.

14) Can Emergency Contraceptive Pill be used during breast feeding period?

Emergency Contraceptive Pill does not have any significant milk decreasing effect. It can be used. However, again use of regular contraceptive method is advised.

15) Do I require a check up by doctor before taking Emergency Contraceptive Pill?

A normal healthy female can take EC on her own. However, it is always better to check with your Gynecologist as soon as & whenever possible.