All You Need To Know About Emergency Contraceptive Pills
An emergency contraceptive pill, known as the ‘morning after’ pill, helps prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex or following protected intercourse during which the contraceptive failed. It’s a backup level of protection, leading to its brand name in the U.S.: Plan B.
Sold over the counter in most parts of India, morning after pills are generally 75-90% effective at preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of intercourse; the sooner after intercourse they’re taken, the higher their chances of preventing pregnancy.
However, morning after pills don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases, nor can they abort pregnancies.
The emergency contraceptive pills available in India generally contain 150 micrograms of levonorgestrel. Depending on when in course of the menstrual cycle the medication is taken, it can either prevent ovulation or prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
Who can take emergency contraceptive pills?
According to the National Health Service in the U.K., most women can use the emergency contraceptive pill as needed, unless they’re allergic to any of its ingredients, already taking medication that may interact with it, or have severe asthma.
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What are the side effects of emergency contraceptive pills?
The most common side effect of emergency contraceptive pills is nausea, though vomiting is rare. If one does vomit two hours or more after taking the pill, the pill will likely still be effective. However, if one throws up within two hours or less of taking the pill, experts recommend seeing a doctor, since the chances of expelling the medicine are higher.
Other side effects, mostly temporary and short term, are:
- abdominal pain;
- breast tenderness;
- spotting or bleeding from the vagina;
- irregular periods and irregular flow during periods;
- menstrual cramps; and
- mood swings.
Does frequent/long-term use of emergency contraceptive pills affect fertility?
Some doctors express concern about the indiscriminate use of these pills as a substitute for regular contraceptives, instead of being reserved for emergencies, as they’re intended. “Advertisements make people believe that this is an easy and safe way of handling unplanned intercourse. … Women are not fully aware that they have side effects…,” Dr. Indira Ganeshan, a Delhi-based gynecologist, explained.
However, while frequent use of the morning after pill can make one’s menstrual cycle irregular and unpredictable, research suggests it doesn’t affect fertility or prevent one from becoming pregnant in the future.
“There’s high potential for misuse due to a lack of awareness, but no serious long-term implications,” Dr. Tanaya Narendra, an internationally trained embryologist, scientist, and women’s health content creator, told The Swaddle.