Emergency Contraception

emergency contraception

What is emergency contraception?
There are three types of emergency contraception now available to women. These are two types of pill, and the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) - also called the coil.
Emergency contraception can be used:

  • If you have had sex without using contraception.
  • If you have had sex, but there was a mistake with contraception.

The progestogen pill

This is a pill that contains levonorgestrel which is a progestogen hormone. The usual dose is one pill which contains 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel.

When do I take it and how does it work?

Take the pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex. The earlier you take the pill, the more effective it is. It is thought to work either by preventing or delaying ovulation (the release of an egg each month) or by preventing the fertilised egg from implanting (settling) in the uterus (womb).

How effective is the progestogen pill?

Although emergency contraception is effective, it is not as reliable as regular planned contraception. However, there is a good chance of preventing pregnancy if it is taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.

  • If this pill is taken within 24 hours after unprotected sex, about 95 in 100 pregnancies are prevented.
  • If it is taken between 25-48 hours after unprotected sex then about 85 in 100 pregnancies are prevented.
  • If it is taken between 49 and 72 hours after unprotected sex, then about 58 in 100 pregnancies are prevented.

Are there any side-effects with the emergency progestogen pill?

Side-effects with the emergency progestogen pill are uncommon. However, some women feel sick for about 24 hours after taking the pill and a few vomit.
If you vomit within three hours of taking the pill then:

  • Take another pill as soon as possible.
  • A coil (IUCD) can be inserted
  • Most women have their next period at about the usual time. Sometimes it is a few days earlier or later than expected.
  • Your next menstrual cycle may also be shorter or longer than usual.
  • There is still a small risk of pregnancy even if you use an emergency contraceptive correctly.

See a doctor urgently if you have any lower abdominal pain or abnormal vaginal bleeding over a period of 2-6 weeks following use of emergency contraception. These are the main symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy.

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