Emergency contraception, like other kinds of birth control, prevents pregnancy. The main difference is that it is to be taken after having sex.

Although emergency contraception can be effective, you should not replace them with regular birth control. Regular birth control is more effective, affordable, and less likely to have side effects. As the name implies, emergency contraception is just for emergencies, and you should not use them regularly.

What are the types of emergency contraception methods?

1. The emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) or the “morning-after” pill:

The morning-after pill is a type of emergency contraception (birth control) designed to prevent pregnancy in women who have had unprotected sex or whose birth control method has failed. The ECP should only be used as a backup and not as the primary method of birth control, as long-term or frequent exposure to the amount of levonorgestrel present in the pill can cause irregular or absent periods. The sooner you take the emergency contraceptive pill after unprotected sex, the better it is, as you must take them within three days after unprotected sex for it to be effective. Some frequent side effects of emergency contraceptive pills are headaches, stomach pains, nausea and discomfort during periods. Contact your doctor if you feel sick or vomit within 3 hours of taking the pill. You must either take another dose or get an IUD.

2. The Copper-T Intrauterine Device (IUD):

A Copper-T IUD is a tiny T-shaped copper device that is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The Copper-T must be placed within five days of unprotected sex in order to be effective as emergency contraception. The IUD is more effective than a pill in preventing pregnancy because only about 1% of women who use IUDs get pregnant. If you’re using the IUD as an emergency contraceptive, you can keep it in and continue using it as your usual method of birth control. You may feel some discomfort when the IUD is inserted inside the uterus, but medications can be helpful. If you use the IUD as a regular method of contraception, your periods may be longer, shorter, heavier, or lighter.

Who can use emergency contraception?

Any woman or girl of reproductive age may require emergency contraception to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. There are no absolute medical or age restrictions for using emergency contraception. The same eligibility criteria that apply to the normal use of a copper IUD apply to the emergency use of a copper IUD.

When do you need emergency contraception?

Morning-after pills can help you avoid pregnancy if you’ve had unprotected sexual intercourse, whether because you didn’t use birth control, skipped a birth control pill, were sexually abused, or your method of birth control failed.

But, morning-after pills will not prevent an already implanted pregnancy. They usually work by suppressing or postponing ovulation.

Please remember that the abortion pill and the morning-after pill are not the same. An abortion pill ends a pregnancy that has already begun, and the fertilised egg has implanted into the uterine wall.

How does emergency contraception work?

Emergency oral contraception works by delaying ovulation. It is a hormone-based medication that contains levonorgestrel and works by temporarily preventing the release of an egg, stopping fertilisation, or preventing a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus.

The copper in the IUD prevents a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterus, even if you get it inserted after having sex.

It is critical to consider time while determining the effectiveness of an emergency contraceptive pill. The emergency contraceptive pills work for up to 3 days or 72 hours after having unprotected sex. But you should remember that the sooner you take the emergency contraceptive pill, the more likely it is to prevent pregnancy. Despite the name “morning-after pill,” you don’t need to wait until the next day to take these pills.

Are they any risks associated with emergency contraceptive pills?

While the emergency contraceptive pill is a viable option for avoiding pregnancy after having unprotected sex, you should not use them as a regular form of birth control because it is not as effective as other forms of contraception. Also, the emergency contraceptive pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

It is not advisable for everyone to use emergency contraceptive pills. Avoid taking the emergency contraceptive pill if:

  • You have an allergy to one or more ingredients of the emergency contraceptive pill
  • You’re taking a medication that can make the emergency contraceptive pill less effective.

There are some indications that the emergency contraceptive pill won’t work as well to prevent pregnancy in obese or overweight people as it does for women who aren’t obese. So, please consult a doctor before using the pills.

According to a study, your weight may impact how effective the pill is for you. When taking the morning-after pill, women with a higher body mass index (BMI) might not have the same level of effectiveness as those with a lower BMI. In such cases, an IUD can be helpful. An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of emergency contraception that is highly effective at any weight.

You might notice light bleeding called spotting after taking the emergency contraceptive pill. Although this does not happen to everyone, it is not something to be concerned about. Consult your doctor if the bleeding gets heavier or happens after you’ve missed a period. It’s possible that the spotting is because of implantation bleeding that occurs after a missed period. This light bleeding happens early in fetal development when the embryo embeds itself in the uterine lining (endometrium).6

Points to keep in mind:

  • Follow the instructions given on the morning-after pill pack or advised by your gynaecologist.
  • Consult your doctor about taking another dose if you vomit within two hours of taking the pill.
  • If you use emergency contraception pills, you will not be prevented from developing STDs such as HIV (the virus that causes AIDS). So, always remember to use condoms while having sex!