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Guidance on the Proper Use of Emergency Contraception Pills

Guidance on the Proper Use of Emergency Contraception Pills

  • October 23, 2023

Emergency contraception pills (ECPs), often referred to as “morning-after pills,” provide a crucial option for preventing unintended pregnancies when regular contraception methods fail, are used incorrectly, or are not used at all. It’s essential to have accurate information about these pills to ensure their effective and safe use. In this blog post, we will provide guidance on the proper use of emergency contraception pills, addressing key questions and concerns.

What Are Emergency Contraception Pills?

Emergency contraception pills are a form of contraception that can be taken after unprotected sexual intercourse or contraceptive failure. They are not intended for regular use and should only be used in emergencies. ECPs are available both over-the-counter and by prescription, depending on your location.

Types of Emergency Contraception Pills

There are two main types of emergency contraception pills:

  • Levonorgestrel (Plan B, Take Action, Next Choice): This is an over-the-counter option, often available without a prescription, which can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.
  • Ulipristal acetate (ella): This requires a prescription and can be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex.

How Do Emergency Contraception Pills Work?

ECPs work in a few ways:

  • They can delay or inhibit ovulation.
  • They may prevent the fertilization of an egg.
  • They might interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus lining.

It’s important to note that ECPs are not the same as the abortion pill. They do not terminate an existing pregnancy but rather prevent one from occurring.

When to Use Emergency Contraception Pills

Emergency contraception pills should be used in specific situations, including:

  • After unprotected sexual intercourse.
  • If a condom breaks or slips off.
  • When a regular contraceptive method (like birth control pills) is missed or used incorrectly.
  • Following sexual assault.

How to Use Emergency Contraception Pills

Levonorgestrel (Plan B)

  • Take one pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex.
  • Take the second pill 12 hours later.
  • Follow the instructions in the package insert for specific guidance.

Ulipristal acetate (ella)

  • Take one tablet as soon as possible after unprotected sex.
  • Follow the instructions provided with your prescription.

Side Effects and Considerations

Common side effects of emergency contraception pills may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and changes in your menstrual cycle. These effects are usually mild and temporary.

It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional if you experience severe side effects or if you suspect you might already be pregnant. ECPs are not 100% effective, so other contraceptive methods should be considered for ongoing protection.

Additional Considerations

  • Emergency contraception should not be relied upon as a regular form of birth control.
  • It does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so using condoms is still important.
  • If you are currently taking hormonal birth control, discuss with your healthcare provider if you need to adjust your regular contraceptive method after taking ECPs.

Emergency contraception pills provide a crucial option for preventing unintended pregnancies when regular contraception methods fail or are not used. However, it’s essential to use them correctly and understand their limitations. Always consult with a healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about the proper use of ECPs. Remember that open communication and access to accurate information are essential for responsible and safe contraceptive choices.

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