In modern times, couples try to balance family and work hence unintended pregnancy is a concern in the event of unprotected intercouse. Unprotected intercourse occurs for multiple reasons which includes lapse in adherence to an ongoing method of contraception, a contraceptive mishap (such as condom breakage), lack of knowledge about contraceptive use and sexual assault.
Fortunately, several options are available for contraception that can be used after unprotected sex has already occurred; these methods, collectively referred to as emergency contraception,
Emergency contraceptives can prevent pregnancies upto 95% if taken with 5 days of unprotected intercourse.
Most common methods of emergency contraceptives are-
- Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs)-These pills include the hormones like estrogens, progestins, or both and are advised to be taken at the earliest or within 72 hours.
- Copper-bearing intrauterine devices (IUDs)-These are inserted by a doctor up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy.
Mode of action
- Emergency contraceptive pills work by delaying release of egg and hence prevent ovulation.
- IUD makes the uterus unfavourable by chemical changes for sperm and egg to meet and grow.
- Emergency contraception cannot interrupt an established pregnancy or harm a developing embryo.
Emergency contraception is a relatively safer form of backup birth control if your choice of contraceptive fails(like condom breakage,missed pills) or if you have unprotected sexual intercourse. It is used after intercourse but before pregnancy has occurred.
This pill does not affect future fertility.
- Side effects of emergency contraceptives are Nausea,vomiting,fatigue,headache,dizziness,breast tenderness and abdominal pain.
- Side effects usually do not occur for more than a few days after treatment, and they generally resolve within 24 hours.
Points to keep in mind before choosing Emergency contraceptives
- Emergency contraceptives should not be taken without prescription or bought over the counter.Only a registered medical practitioner after carefully assessing the situation can prescribe it.
- There is no restriction of age and these can be prescribed to women of any age if need be. In minors, it can be prescribed after discussion with the guardian.
- Frequent use of emergency contraceptive is not recommended as it can lead to complications. hence discuss with your gynecologist regarding use of a long term contraceptives.
- It does not protect against sexually transmitted disease, so to avoid such a risk condom use is advised.
- As the method is effective, most women get their next menstrual period at expected date, but in few cases there can be dysregulation of cycle or heavier bleeding.
According to WHO recommendations, every women who is at risk of unintended pregnancy should have the right to access emergency contraception. In India, after carefully assessing the health of the woman, a registered medical practitioner can prescribe emergency contraceptives.
Avoid buying emergency contraceptive pills over the counter without prescription.
Discuss with your physician/ gynecologist about the emergency contraception and the best option for you in case of an accidental intercourse.
-Dr Prerna Gaur