What is Emergency Contraception?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Aug 10, 2011

Woman take tabletsEmergency contraception is use of drug or device to prevent unwanted pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse. Such measures must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.


History of Emergency Contraception


Even though, emergency contraception has been around for several decades but its first recorded use was in 1960s. It was first used by doctors on a rape victim. Its usage as a solution to failed birth control devices was extremely controversial till 1990, they were only used by rape victims. It was only after 1997 that FDA approved emergency contraception plan.

Since 1998, emergency contraception is largely use by people, they are also available over-the-counter. However, some physician and religious hospitals still refuse its usage.


Types of Emergency Contraception


  • Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs): They are commonly referred to as ‘morning after pill’ or simply ‘contraceptive pills’. These pills are intended to disrupt fertilisation process and finally unwanted pregnancy.
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs): IUDs are mostly use as primary contraceptive method. It is use for emergency contraception only when the women don’t want to get pregnant for couple number of years. IUDs don’t allow fertilise egg to join uterus. With IUDs pregnancy can be prevented for 10 years.
  • Birth control pills: Regular birth control pills contain the same hormone as ‘morning after pills’. In emergency these pills can be use as an alternate to emergency contraception. However, it is important to consult doctor before taking them as the required dose will vary from one brand to another.


When to use Emergency Contraception


You must use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy when:


  • You forgot to use birth control measure.
  • Condom broke.
  • You are forced to have sex.
  • You forgot to take two or three birth control pills in a row.
  • Your diaphragm slips out of place.
  • You suspect that your birth control measure has failed.


Depending on the brand emergency contraceptive pills can be effective up to five days after unprotected sex. Most pills works up to 72 hours of unprotected sex while some claim to work till 120 hours. Some contraceptive pills are taken in two doses .i.e. one up to 120 hours of unprotected sex. And second dose after 12 hours. Like some of the contraceptive pills, IUDs can also be used up to five days of unprotected sex. In both the cases it is important to consult your doctor before using emergency contraception.


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