Emergency Contraception: How They Work, Different Kinds of Emergency Contraception and Potential Side Effects

Sexual Health

Emergency Contraception: How They Work, Different Kinds of Emergency Contraception and Potential Side Effects

Editorial Team
2021
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04
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30

You’ve counted the days using the calendar method, organized your birth control pills into daily pill cases and even have back-up condoms at the ready. But sometimes life gets in the way and accidents happen. You might have forgotten to take a birth control pill or two in the midst of your busy schedule. The condom breaks or slips off in the heat of the moment. It’s the morning after, and now what? 


While it might be an overwhelming and even scary experience to go through, it is important that you do your best to keep calm and have a game plan ready. These days, preventing unwanted pregnancy by using emergency contraception has an effectiveness rate of over 90%. However, it requires you to act fast and keep track of the time that the unprotected sex occurred.


In this article, we’ll be explaining what exactly emergency contraception is, how they work, their potential side effects and how Zoey can help you get the emergency contraception you need to avoid getting pregnant. 


What Is Emergency Contraception?


Emergency contraception refers to methods of birth control that is used to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex. It is recommended that emergency contraception be used within 72 to 120 hours after unprotected sex but the sooner they are taken, the more effective they will be at preventing pregnancy. 


Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy by either killing the sperm before it reaches the egg or by delaying ovulation to stop fertilization from occuring. It is important to note that emergency contraception does not induce an abortion. 


When Should I Use An Emergency Contraception?


You should use emergency contraception if any of the following has occurred: 

  • You and your partner had unprotected sex
  • If your partner’s condom came off or broke during sex
  • You missed 2 or more days of your birth control pills
  • You think your method of birth control has failed. 


Different Types of Emergency Contraception 


The 2 main types of emergency contraception are Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD) and Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs), with ECPs being the most commonly used form of emergency contraception. 


1) Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD) 

  • A copper-releasing IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. While it is normally used as a long-term birth control, copper IUDs (specifically Paragard) can act as a form of emergency contraception if it is inserted into the uterus within 5 days after unprotected sex has occurred. You can get the copper IUD safely removed by a doctor after your next period cycle is complete, or you  can choose to leave the copper IUD in as a long-term form of birth control that will last up to 10 years.  


  • Copper IUDs prevent unwanted pregnancy by releasing copper into both the uterus and the fallopian tubes, effectively acting as a form of spermicide and preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.  


  • While copper IUDs are generally regarded as a safe form of both birth control and emergency contraception, it does slightly raise the risk of experiencing pelvic inflammatory disease during the first 3 weeks of use. However, these risks are very low. You should consult your doctor on whether using copper-releasing IUDs is suitable for you both as a form of emergency contraception and long-term birth control. 


2) Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs)


Often referred to as “Morning-After” pills, emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are hormone pills. They contain a significantly higher level of hormones found in birth control pills to prevent pregnancy from occurring. 


Currently, there are 2 main types of emergency contraceptive pills or “morning-after” pills: ones that contain the hormone levonorgestrel, and ones that contain the hormone ulipristal acetate. 


Levonorgestrel Emergency Contraceptive Pills

  • Known by its brand names such as Plan B One Step®, Postinor® and Preventeza®, levonorgestrel ECPs prevent unwanted pregnancy by delaying the release of the egg from the ovary and stops fertilisation from occurring. Levonorgestrel ECPs are the most effective when you consume them within 72 hours after unprotected sex. According to data reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO), levonorgestrel ECPs have a 97.9 to 98.8% success rate of preventing unwanted pregnancy when taken within 72 to 120 hours after unprotected sex. As with all emergency contraceptives, it is still highly advisable to take it as soon as you can after the unprotected sex has occurred.


Ulipristal Acetate Emergency Contraceptive Pills

  • Known by its brand name ella®, ulipristal acetate ECPs prevent unwanted pregnancy by suppressing and delaying ovulation to stop fertilisation from happening. Ulipristal acetate ECPs are the most effective when you consume them within 120 hours after unprotected sex. According to data reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO), ulipristal acetate ECPs are considered the most effective morning-after pill with a 98.8% success rate at preventing unwanted pregnancy. As with all emergency contraceptives, it is still highly advisable to take it as soon as you can after the unprotected sex has occurred.  


How Will I Know The Emergency Contraceptive Pill Has Worked? 


Emergency contraceptives pills are at its most effective when taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex. It is completely normal to experience some spotting a few days after taking the pill as they delay ovulation. Your subsequent period might be slightly irregular after taking the emergency contraceptive pill as it could come slightly earlier by a week, be heavier than usual, or lighter than usual. 


Should you not get your period within three weeks after taking the emergency contraceptive pill, or you experience any pregnancy symptoms (nausea, swollen breasts, fatigue and increased urination), it is important that you take a pregnancy test or consult your doctor. 


If you experience spotting or bleeding that lasts longer than 7 days or experience lower abdominal pain after taking the emergency contraceptive pill, it is important that you consult your doctor. 


Possible Side Effects From Taking Emergency Contraceptive Pills 


While emergency contraceptive pills are generally safe to consume for most women and many do not experience side effects, there is a possibility that you might experience mild side effects. As mentioned earlier, emergency contraceptive pills contain a higher dosage of hormones than the ones found in daily birth control and might cause you to experience the following side effects: 

  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting (if you do throw up within 2 hours of taking the morning-after pill, it is important to contact your doctor to discuss whether another dose is necessary)
  • Irregular bleeding or spotting
  • Mild stomach pain
  • Dizziness
  • Breast tenderness


It is recommended that you have either a small meal or a snack before taking the morning-after pill, to try and help mitigate nausea and vomiting that might occur.


How Zoey Can Help You Get The Emergency Contraception That You Need


If you’ve recently had unprotected sex and require emergency contraceptive pills, you can consult one of our doctors. Here at Zoey, we understand that emergency contraception is a time-sensitive prescription and will endeavour to get your prescription delivered to you within the 4-hour delivery promise.  


References 


“Emergency Contraception.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/emergency-contraception. (Link)