Reproductive Medicine, Primary Care Doctor, Genito-Urinary Medicine, General Practice

Emergency Contraception

Introduction to Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception is used to prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex or scenarios whereby normal contraceptive methods may have failed.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception is used to prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex or scenarios whereby normal contraceptive methods may have failed. Emergency contraception can be divided into two main categories: the emergency contraceptive pill (morning after pill) or the Intrauterine Device (IUD or coil).

How does Emergency Contraception work?

The emergency contraceptive pill can come in two forms: Levonelle and ellaOne. They both work to delay the release of an egg by altering your hormonal makeup in the short term. Levonelle contains a synthetic version of progesterone and must be taken within 3 days of sex to be effective. ellaOne conversely works by blocking the normal activity of progesterone and must be taken within 5 days of sex to be effective.

The IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into your uterus and blocks your fallopian tubes. These connect your ovaries to your uterus and provide a route through which the egg travels during ovulation. The IUD can also be used as a long-term means of contraception and will be effective as long as it is inserted whereas emergency contraceptive pills offer only temporary protection. It is important to note emergency contraception does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The type of emergency contraception used is very much determined by your own personal needs and circumstances.

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How to prepare for recieving Emergency Contraception?

It may be worth consulting friends and family who have had experience with either form of emergency contraception. This can be useful in allaying any fears you may have with regards to the procedure and allow for a more effective consultation.

Certain substances such as St John’s Wort, omeprazole (and other antacids) and some epilepsy medications interfere with the contraceptive pill and it is important to inform the clinician and stop taking them prior and immediately after being administered contraception.

What happens after taking Emergency Contraception?

It is extremely important to remember that if you vomit within a few hours of taking the emergency contraceptive pill you should seek immediate medical advice as your body may not have had enough time to assimilate it.

Though emergency contraceptive pills are extremely safe you may experience slight variation in your menstrual cycle, headache, nausea and other symptoms of minor illness. It is also important to not breastfeed for a week if you are given ellaOne, though the clinician will most likely take this into account when deciding upon the choice of contraceptive.

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