The Morning After Pill
The morning after pill or emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is taken
to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse, or because
the primary form of contraception failed (i.e. broken condom). It must
be taken within 72 hours and is most effective when taken within the first
12 to 24 hours.
What is it?
The morning after pill is a multiple dose of an oral contraceptive that
is meant to slow down the rate at which the egg travels through the fallopian
tube. It also alters the lining of the uterus so that the egg cannot be
implanted. Because it contains high doses of estrogen and progestin, it
is not to be used in place of oral contraceptives or birth control pills,
as the strong dose of hormones may disrupt a woman’s regular menstrual
to take it?
A woman may want to take emergency contraceptive measures in situations
- No form of birth control was used during sexual intercourse
- The primary form of birth control failed (condom broke, diaphragm
- Two or more birth control pills were missed in a row
- The woman was forced to engage in sexual intercourse
Facts and side effects
To prevent pregnancy, the effectiveness of the morning-after pill is believed
to be between 75 to 90%. It is however ineffective in protecting against
sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV. Most emergency contraceptive
pill packs contain 2 pills; one to be taken immediately after intercourse,
and the other 12 hours later.
Side effects may include;
- breast tenderness
- fatigue, headache
- irregular vaginal bleeding
If vomiting occurs within two hours of taking the pill, an additional
two pills must be taken. Many women will take Gravol (an anti-nausea medication)
before taking emergency contraceptive pills to decrease the risk of vomiting.
Many clinics will distribute Gravol together with the ECP to patients.
More severe side effects can include;
- blood clot formation
- ectopic pregnancy
Menstruation should resume in approximately three weeks after taking
the ECP. If menstruation does not occur, a pregnancy test should be administered.
An important detail to note is that the morning after pill will not protect
a woman from becoming pregnant during the rest of her cycle. To avoid
pregnancy, always be sure to use an effective method of protection when
engaging in sexual activity.