May 24, 2024

What Is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception (EC) is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Often called the “morning-after pill,” ECPs are pills you can take after sex to reduce the risk of getting pregnant.

There are two main types of EC:

  • Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs): These pills can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. Some types work best within 72 hours (3 days).
  • Copper IUD: This IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex for long-term emergency contraception.

How Does Emergency Contraception Work?

ECPs work by delaying ovulation, the release of an egg from your ovary. This prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg. ECPs do not affect pregnancies that have already implanted.

How Effective is Emergency Contraception?

ECPs are very effective, especially when taken as soon as possible after sex. About 1-2 out of every 100 women who take ECPs within 72 hours will get pregnant.

Important Things to Remember About ECPs

  • The sooner you take ECPs, the more effective they are.
  • ECPs are not a regular birth control method. They are for emergencies only.
  • ECPs do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Always use condoms to prevent STDs.
  • ECPs may cause some minor side effects, like nausea, vomiting, or breast tenderness. These side effects are usually mild and go away within 1-2 days.
  • ECPs may affect your next period. It might be a little early, late, or heavier than usual.

Who Can Use Emergency Contraception?

ECPs are a good option if:

  • Your condom broke or slipped off during sex.
  • Your diaphragm or cervical cap came out of place.
  • You missed pills on your birth control regimen.
  • You were forced to have unprotected sex.

ECPs are not recommended for:

  • Women who are already pregnant.
  • Women who want to use ECPs as their regular birth control method.

Where Can I Get Emergency Contraception?

  • Some ECPs are available over-the-counter at drugstores and pharmacies without a prescription.
  • One type of ECP, effective for up to 5 days, requires a prescription from a doctor.
  • A copper IUD for emergency contraception needs to be inserted by a healthcare provider.

How Much Does Emergency Contraception Cost?

The cost of ECPs depends on the type you get. It can range from $15-$70. Many insurance plans cover ECPs, and family planning clinics may offer them at a lower cost.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following after using ECPs:

  • You think you might be pregnant.
  • You notice a change in the color or smell of your vaginal discharge.
  • You have unexplained fever or chills.
  • You have severe pelvic or abdominal pain.
  • You have pain during sex.
  • You have heavy or prolonged vaginal bleeding.
  • You miss your period within 4 weeks of using ECPs.

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