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When you need Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception (EC) is not the substitute for regular birth control methods or abortion but, in fact, is the “emergency” option for women to avoid pregnancy after contraception failure, sexual assault or unprotected intercourse. Emergency contraception, specially Progestin-only birth control pills like Plan B, are advised to women seeking immediate action to avoid pregnancy. Such pills are advised to rape victims and sexually assaulted women as well.

Emergency contraception pills are also known as “morning-after”, “EC” or “Postcoital Contraception” in medical terms. However, “morning-after” doesn’t mean that emergency contraception pills to be taken in the morning. It should be taken as prescribed.

Types of emergency contraception methods :

These are available in broadly three ways whereas two methods are in pill form and another is device known as intrauterine device. Two types of pills are progestin-only like Plan B and usual combined birth control pills (progestin and estrogen). Intrauterine device is also used as emergency contraception and suggested to women who are allergic to progestin or estrogen based pills. IUD as widely called is small, T shaped plastic device with a string attached to the end. It is inserted through cervix and placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. A small string hangs down from IUD into the upper part of the vagina.

How Emergency contraception pills work?

Like other birth control pills, EC works by stopping ovulation (i.e release of eggs) and preventing sperm to meet with eggs for fertilization, hence there is no pregnancy.

When to take Emergency contraception?

EC must be taken as soon as the unprotected intercourse has occurred. Progestin-only pills like Plan B contraceptive pills are available in two tablets. One pill must be taken immediately followed by next with 12 hours apart. Though EC pills can be taken upto 5 days i.e 120 hours, however, Progestin-only pills like Plan B are effective for upto 3 days i.e 72 hours.

Its effectiveness after unprotected sex can be judged as below. - 95% effective if taken within 24 hours - 85% effective if taken between 24 to 48 hours - 58% effective between 49 to 72 hours In case, more than 72 hours have passed of unprotected sex then it is highly recommended to use the IUD (intrauterine device) after consulting with your physician because after 72 hours, your contraceptive pills might be failed.

Who should seek Emergency contraception help :

Well, it is designed for emergency relief from getting pregnant. Women can take EC if
  • Contraception methods are failed like condom is broken or slipped off during intercourse, ring is removed or diaphragm, cap or any protection is removed.
  • Women think that she had intercourse during “ovulation days”. These are most crucial days as the chances of becoming pregnant are very high.
  • Women are sexually abused, raped or forced to go for unprotected intercourse.

Being the time sensitive, two important factors will determine the effectiveness of emergency contraception success and those are :
  • how soon woman takes it after the unprotected intercourse has occurred.
  • if she has another unprotected intercourse in the same menstrual cycle.


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