Emergency Contraception (Morning after Pill)
You get caught up in the heat of the moment, and have sex without contraception. Maybe the condom breaks, or in the worse case scenario, you are sexually assaulted. Regardless how it happens, unprotected sex opens the door to the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. This can be a scary experience, but there is help out there in the form of emergency contraception (EC).
Emergency Contraception can prevent an unplanned pregnancy in the following situations:
- No contraception was used
- Missed birth control pills, patch, or ring
- The condom slipped, broke, or leaked
- The diaphragm or cervical cap is dislodged during sexual intercourse or was removed too early
- Error in the calculation of the fertility period
- Non-consensual sexual intercourse (sexual assault)
Unlike other forms of contraception, emergency contraception (EC) can be used AFTER intercourse to prevent pregnancy. As the name suggests, emergency contraception is not something you want to rely on. This is a last chance contraception, and is sometimes called the “morning-after” pill. EC is a simple and safe way to prevent pregnancy.
How it works
EC, which is successful in preventing about three out of every four pregnancies that would have happened, works by delaying/preventing ovulation and can be taken up to 5 days after sex. Emergency contraceptives work by delaying or inhibiting the release of an egg (ovulation), altering the luteal phase length, and also possibly inhibiting the implantation of a fertilized egg. In the unlikely event that implantation does occur, EC does not interrupt the pregnancy or put the fetus at risk. However the sooner it is taken, the better it works.
Some women experience side effects, including vomiting and nausea. If vomiting occurs within 1 hour of taking the pills, the dose may have to be repeated. Your health care professional can suggest medication, like Gravol™, to avoid this problem. Your period should start within 21 days after taking EC. See your health care professional if it does not.
Another contraception called the copper intrauterine device (copper IUD) can also be used as emergency contraception up to 7 days after sex.
How to get it
EC is easy to find because it is now available in Canadian pharmacies without a prescription. You can also contact the nearest health centre in your area, your own doctor, a walk-in clinic, or the nearest birth control/sexual health clinic. The cost varies depending on which EC you use and where you get it. You can obtain the product in advance and store it for use in case of an emergency.
You have two types of EC methods to choose from:
(1) Hormonal EC methods (“the morning after pill”):
(i) a special formulation called Plan B® (progestin-only method)
(ii) a special formulation called NorLevo® (progestin-only method)
(iii)a series of four contraceptive pills called the Yuzpe method(combined estrogen and progestin)
(2) A copper intrauterine device (copper IUD):
inserted by a health-care professional and available by prescription only
When mistakes happen, Emergency Contraception is the last chance to take control of your reproductive destiny, so make sure you know how to get it - just in case.Emergency contraception is intended for occasional use only. You should not rely on EC as your primary method of birth control, as it’s less effective than regular contraceptive methods. It does not, by any means, protect against Sexually transmitted infections.