Feb 08, 2009
Unfortunately, many women are unaware of the availability of emergency contraception. Also known as the Morning After Pill or Post coital Contraception, emergency contraception is safe, effective and easy to obtain.
Emergency contraception is a therapy used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse, or in cases of contraceptive failure such as a broken condom. It involves taking only two doses of medication which can be completed within a 24 hours period.
There are two different types of emergency contraception. In the United States, Plan B is the most common preparation; its cost is between $10 and $50. It can be obtained without a prescription by women over 18 years of age, and with a prescription for those under 18. With a doctor's instructions, emergency contraception can also be made up from standard oral contraceptive pills to create the second type of preparation.
Emergency contraception works by several possible methods, the most likely being by delaying or preventing ovulation. It has no effect at all on a fertilized embryo, and should not be confused with medical abortion. Most data indicate that it will not cause birth defects in the event that it is inadvertently taken during pregnancy, and it will not cause abortion of an established pregnancy.
Emergency contraception is most effective when used as soon as possible after unprotected sex, but may be effective up to 120 hours after the fact. Studies indicate that use of emergency contraception prevents up to 75% of expected pregnancies.
There are very few people who cannot take emergency contraception. Even women who are not normally candidates for oral contraceptives, such as those with migraines, liver disease, or heart disease can take emergency contraception. Breastfeeding is not a contraindication.
Most women's health providers such as Planned Parenthood, primary care providers, and obstetrician/gynecologists
will prescribe emergency contraception to their established patients over the telephone without the need for an office visit or laboratory tests. Walk-in Clinics and Emergency rooms will prescribe emergency contraception to patients without an established physician.
Common side effects of emergency contraception are nausea/vomiting and irregular menstrual bleeding. Many health care providers prescribe anti-nausea medications which may be taken one hour prior to the dosage, to help reduce the symptoms. If vomiting occurs within 2 hours of the dose, the dose should be repeated. It is rare for the nausea to last more than 24-48 hours. Nausea is much less common with Plan B than with other preparations.
Irregular bleeding is very common. The normal period can come early or be delayed, spotting may also occur. Abnormal bleeding does not usually persist into the next menstrual cycle.
No follow up evaluation is needed after emergency contraception, unless the period is delayed by more than a week, irregular bleeding persists, or abdominal pain or other symptoms develop. A barrier method of contraception (such as condom or diaphragm) should be used for the remainder of the cycle. Emergency contraception can be repeated within
the same cycle if necessary. Emergency contraception is not recommended as a regular form of birth control. On-going hormonal or other contraception may be started immediately after emergency contraception or with the next menstrual period.
Emergency contraception requires only two doses of medication, and can be finished with in 24 hours.
It is available to women over 18 without a prescription, or a prescription can often be obtained over the telephone.
It can be used safely by almost anyone.
It can be used up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, although it is most effective if taken within the first 72 hours.
Side effects are minor and can be alleviated.
It is effective in preventing 75% or more of expected pregnancies, but will not cause abortion.
Plan B is the most common product in the United States; the cost of Plan B ranges from $10 to $50.
For more information go to: