- What Is Birth Control?
- What Is the Morning After Pill?
- Morning After Pill: How It Works
- Morning After Pill Side Effects
- Morning After Pill Dosage & Types
- Emergency IUD
Introduction to birth control
If a woman is sexually active and she is fertile and physically able to become pregnant, she needs to ask herself, "Do I want to become pregnant now?" If her answer is "No," she must use some method of birth control (contraception).
Terminology used to describe birth control methods includes:
Regardless of the terminology used, sexually active people can choose from a variety of methods to reduce the possibility of their becoming pregnant. No method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted diseases or STDs, except abstinence.
In simple terms, all methods of birth control are based on either preventing a man's sperm from reaching and entering a woman's egg (fertilization) or preventing the fertilized egg from implanting in the woman's uterus (her womb) and starting to grow. New methods of birth control are being developed and tested all the time. What is appropriate for a couple at one point may change with time and circumstances.
Unfortunately, no birth control method, except abstinence, is considered to be 100% effective.
Emergency contraception definition
Emergency contraception is a medication or device that is used to prevent conception after unprotected intercourse has already occurred. It is not intended for use as a primary method of contraception and is most appropriate as a back-up method. Between 2006 and 2010, about 1 in 9 women of reproductive age in the US report having used emergency contraception. Emergency contraception can involve the administration of hormones or the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD).
What is emergency hormonal contraception (morning after pill)?
Emergency hormonal contraception is sometimes called "the morning after pill" or "postcoital contraception," although these are not the preferred terms, and actually can be misleading. It is actually a short course of the hormones found in oral contraceptives taken at a high dose. The exact regimen (the number of pills and the number of days) depends on the type of oral contraceptive used.
How does the morning after pill work?
Depending upon the time during the menstrual cycle that the emergency contraceptives are taken, these may prevent pregnancy by blocking the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus, by inhibiting ovulation, or by interfering with fertilization of the egg.
- To be considered a possible candidate for emergency contraceptive pills a woman should take the medication within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, although there is some evidence that they may be effective in the 5 days following intercourse.
- Because the pills may be taken up to 72 hours later, the term "morning-after pill" is misleading.
- However, the pills are most effective when taken as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse.
- The only known contraindication to emergency contraception is pregnancy, so a woman must not be pregnant when these methods are used.
- Emergency hormonal contraception may be taken on any day of the menstrual cycle.
What are the side effects of the morning after pill?
- There are no serious side effects, but the pills may cause nausea and vomiting in some women.
- These side effects may be controlled by taking an anti-nausea drug such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine).
- Frequently a doctor will give a prescription nausea medication, such as prochlorperazine (Compazine), at the same time as the emergency contraceptive pill.
- A woman may also experience breast tenderness and a temporary disruption of her menstrual cycle.
Who can purchase the morning after pill?
- One type of emergency hormonal contraception is available without a prescription in the US for people aged 17 or older (proof of ID is required for purchase).
- It is also available for younger teens with parental permission.
What tests or exams are necessary before you can use the morning after pill?
Neither a physical examination nor any laboratory tests are required prior to use of the emergency hormonal contraception. It can be taken at any time during the menstrual cycle, and the next menstrual period typically occurs within one week of the expected time. The timing of the subsequent menses is, to some extent, dependent upon the time in the cycle at which the emergency contraceptive was taken.
What is the dosage, and what types of the morning after pill are available?
Another formulation for emergency hormonal contraception uses estrogen along with levonorgestrel, but levonorgestrel-only medication may be more effective and causes less nausea compared to estrogen-containing products.
Clinical trials using low doses of mifepristone (known earlier as RU-486, sometimes called "the abortion pill") have shown that this agent is extremely effective as an emergency contraceptive when taken prior to ovulation, but it has not been approved for this use in the US. Mifepristone (Mifeprex) has been approved, in much higher doses, for terminating a pregnancy of less than 49 days' duration and must be taken under a physician's supervision.
Another type of anti-progestin medication that is similar to mifepristone in its structure and actions is known as ulipristal acetate. Ulipristal acetate (Ella) is marketed for emergency contraception in Europe and was approved by the US FDA in August 2010 for use in the US for emergency contraception up to 120 hours after intercourse. It is available by prescription only.
How effective is the morning after pill?
Although effectiveness of the oral contraceptives are dependent to some extent upon how soon after unprotected intercourse they are taken, efficacy studies have generally reported a low rate of pregnancy with use of oral emergency contraception.
Does the morning after pill protect against STDS?
Emergency contraceptive pills do not protect women from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Can the morning after pill be used as a primary form of birth control?
Emergency hormonal contraception or the morning after pill is not meant to be a primary birth control method. Once the emergency is over, a woman should receive proper counseling so that she can select an effective and appropriate contraceptive method to use on a regular basis if she continues to be sexually active.
What is emergency IUD?
Like the high dose of oral hormonal contraceptive, an IUD blocks the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterine wall. Emergency IUD insertion can also be used to prevent a pregnancy after unprotected sex.
- Copper IUD insertion is the most effective method of emergency contraception.
- If the copper IUD (Paragard) is inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex, it is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.
- The copper IUD has the lowest failure rate of all emergency contraception options.
What are the complications or contraindications with emergency IUD?
- Emergency IUD insertion does slightly increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- Contraindications to the use of the emergency IUD include:
- known or suspected pregnancy,
- active pelvic infection,
- copper allergy, and
- certain anatomical abnormalities of the uterus.
Can emergency IUD be used as birth control?
An added advantage of emergency contraceptive use of an IUD compared to pills is that once the IUD is in place, it will provide the woman with a long-term contraceptive method if she chooses.
Medscape. Emergency Contraception.
Top Contraceptive Measures After Unprotected Sex Related Articles
Barrier Methods of Birth Control Side Effects, Advantages, and Disadvantages
Many barrier methods of birth control are available for a man or woman, for example, the sponge, female and male condoms, diaphram, spermicides, male condoms, female condoms, contraceptive sponge, diaphragm, and cervical cap. Side effects, and efficacy (in preventing pregnancy) depends on the type of birth control used.
Birth Control OptionsBirth control is available in a variety of methods and types. The method of birth control varies from person to person, and their preferences to either become pregnant or not. Examples of barrier methods include barrier methods (sponge, spermicides, condoms), hormonal methods (pill, patch), surgical sterilization (tubal ligation, vasectomy), natural methods, and the morning-after pill. Side effects and risks of each birth control option should be reviewed before using any birth control method.
Choosing Your Birth Control MethodWhich birth control option is right for you? Discover birth control methods such as birth control pills, birth control shot, implant, patch and more. Learn about birth control side effects and effectiveness.
Birth Control Quiz: Test Your Medical IQWhat is the best form of birth control? Take this quiz to find out about hormonal, surgical, barrier, and natural methods!
Do Cold Sores Mean You Have an STD?Having a cold sore does not necessarily mean you have an STD. Most cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which typically is not transmitted by sexual contact.
Hormonal Methods of Birth ControlThere are several different hormonal methods of birth control. The hormones can be estrogen and/or progesterone. The hormones can be taken by mouth, implanted into body tissue, absorbed from a patch on the skin, injected under the skin, or placed in the vagina. Common types of hormonal birth control include: "The Pill" (oral contraceptives), injection (Depo-Provera, Lunelle), the patch (Ortho-Evra), and the vaginal ring (Nuvaring).
IUD (Intrauterine Device for Birth Control)
An IUD (intrauterine device) is a birth control method designed for a woman. The IUD is a small "T" made of molded polyethylene plastic coated with barium so that, if need be, it can be seen on X-ray.
There are two types of IUDs 1) Intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) including the ParaGard, Copper 7, and Mini-7; and 2) Intrauterine system (IUS) including Progestasert and Mirena.
Side effects of the IUD include spotting, infection, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and heavy menstrual bleeding. Risks and complications of the IUD are miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, and increased menstrual bleeding.
Natural Birth ControlNatural methods of contraception are considered "natural" because they are non-mechanical and non-hormonal. Fertility awareness methods (FAMs) are based upon knowing when a woman ovulates each month. Natural methods of birth control include: the calendar rhythm, basal body temperature, mucus inspection, symptothermal, use of an ovulation indicator testing kit, withdrawal, lactational infertility, douching and urination, and abstinence.
Pregnancy Myths and Facts QuizBeing pregnant is a delicate time for both mother and baby. Take this pregnancy myths and facts quiz to separate the myths and facts about being pregnant, and learn the truth behind healthy pregnancies!
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)Common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in women include gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, and HPV infection (genital warts). Learn about types, symptoms, and treatment.
STDs in MenSymptoms of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in men include painful urination, bumps or sores on the penis, and penile discharge and itching. Learn about the most common STDs in men.
STDs Facts SlideshowSexually transmitted infections like chlamydia and genital herpes are common STDs. Think you might have an STD? You’re not alone. Find pictures of herpes, gonorrhea, and more. Learn how venereal disease can harm your health, and how to tell your partner if you have an STD.
Birth Control: Surgical SterilizationSurgical sterilization is considered a permanent method of contraception. In certain cases, sterilization can be reversed, but this is not guaranteed. For this reason, sterilization is meant for men and women who do not intend to have children in the future. Types of surgical sterilization include: vasectomy, tubal ligation, STOP (selective tubal occlusion procedure), and hysterectomy.
Why Did I Miss My Period on Birth Control?Missed periods on birth control are a common issue that affects many women. Learn why you missed your period on birth control, how your doctor will diagnose why, and how you can treat your missed period.