Emergency contraception: top five facts
Whether the condom slipped your mind or off the penis, it’s usually followed by some frantic calculations (‘could I be fertile right now?’) and a rush to the pharmacy in search of a ‘morning-after pill’.
But there are many options, so don’t panic.
The emergency pill, or e-pill, is available over the counter in Kenya which means you can go straight to the pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription to get it. The e-pill is very effective in preventing pregnancies after unprotected sex, if you take it as soon as possible.
With some brands, you take one pill; with others, you will have to take two, 12-hours apart. Check with the pharmacist or a healthcare professional for the right instructions.
Some women have side-effects like nausea and vomiting when they take the e-pill. Also, it could have an effect on the timing of your next period.
The e-pill is not a normal contraception method. You should take it only in case of emergency.
When to take the e-pill
The sooner the e-pill is taken after unprotected sex the more effective it is. Depending on which brand and hormone you use, the e-pill can still be effective if you take it 72 hours or even 120 hours after sex.
Many health care providers even suggested getting an emergency pill and keeping it at home just in case. Because it’s more effective if it’s taken as soon as possible after you had unprotected sex. And it saves that rushed trip out of the house to find an open pharmacy in the middle of the night or on the weekend. By the way, keeping e-pills at home doesn’t mean you are more likely to have unprotected sex, studies found.
Is the e-pill an abortion pill?
No. The e-pill is not an abortion pill. The e-pill works in various ways, but can’t do anything if an egg is already fertilized. If you take the e-pill before ovulation, the e-pill tricks your body into thinking that ovulation has already happened, so it delays ovulation. It also thickens the mucus on your cervix, making it hard for sperm to get into the womb. That way it stops you from getting pregnant.
If you already are pregnant and take the e-pill, it will have no negative effects on your pregnancy. However, the low dose (100 mg) of the abortion pill ‘mifepristone’ can also be taken as emergency contraception. You should check with a healthcare provider before taking it though.
IUDs as emergency contraception
Another very effective method of emergency contraception is fitting a Copper-T IUD, also known as the ‘coil’. Actually, it’s the most effective form of emergency contraception. Even if it’s inserted five days after intercourse, it’s still 99.9 per cent effective, says Planned Parenthood. You need to see a doctor though to have it put in place, and depending on where you live, it can be a bit pricey.
And it has another big advantage: the Copper-T (Paragard) can stay in a woman’s body for up to 10 years afterwards as a normal and super-effective birth control method.
You can also take some brands of combined oral contraceptives (‘the pill’) in higher doses. This is called the Yuzpe-method. But because the side-effects are high and it’s not very effective, you should look into other methods rather than this one. Even taking higher doses of progestogen-only pills (‘the mini-pill’) is more effective than the Yuzpe-method, but can also have lots of side-effects.
There is a catch though – if you have been taking the pill regularly before, taking the same pill in higher doses may not be very effective as emergency contraception. So you should talk to a healthcare provider before using the Yuzpe method.
And, just as with the e-pill, the Yuzpe-method should only be used in case of emergency, not as a normal way of birth control.
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