First of all, emergency contraceptive pills (or morning-after pills) are NOT abortion pills. These are commonly used after having unprotected sex or if a method of birth control failed. But like any type of medication, there are side effects, risks and alternatives. Read on to learn more about these!
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Emergency contraceptive pills (ECP)
ECPs are oral medications taken to prevent pregnancy. It delays the release of the egg from the ovary to prevent implantation. Others also alter the lining of the uterus to reduce the sperm’s ability to bind with the egg. Another form of ECP blocks the hormone progesterone from occupying its receptor site in the body. Although there have been reported side effects to ECPs, there have been no record of serious side effects nor does it affect future fertility.
There are 2 types of ECPs available in the Philippines. That being said, one would still need a prescription to be able to buy one.
Probably the most famous ECP with brand names including Plan B One-Step, My Way, AfterPill, and many more. It temporarily blocks eggs from being released, stops fertilization, or keeps the fertilized egg from becoming implanted in the uterus.
It is recommended to take this as soon as possible because it is believed to be more effective taken closer to the end of the unprotected sex. After having sex, one may choose to drink Levenorgestrel ECPs within 72 hours or 3 days. It can reduce the chance of getting pregnant by upto 90%. However, there have been reports that it loses its effectiveness in women who are overweight or obese.
Ella is the most famous brand name that uses Ulipristal to prevent pregnancy in women. It stops or delays the release of the egg from the ovary. Ulipristal also makes it harder for the fertilized egg to attach from the uterus.
Ulipristal is considered to be a stronger ECP than those that uses levenorgestrel and can be taken within 120 hours or 5 days from the unprotected sex. It is reported that there are no changes in the effectiveness between day 1 and day 5. That being said, it is also recommended not to take ulipristal with birth control pills as it may affect the effectiveness.
Side effects of emergency contraceptive pills
ECPs are considered safe to use with no reported cases of serious side effects. Still, some women still experience minor side effects such as:
- Irregular bleeding, spotting, or heavier bleeding
- Abdominal pain
- Breast tenderness
If you experience vomiting 2 hours after taking levonorgestrel, or 3 hours after taking ulipristal, contact your doctor immediately. This may warrant a repeat dose and an anti-nausea medication.
It is considered safe to take levonorgestrel within the same cycle if necessary. However, ulipristal should not be taken more than once in the same menstrual cylce. It would be best to talk to your doctor so you could choose to take regular birth control pills instead of ECPs.
If you are already pregnant before taking Levenorgestrel, it will not affect the pregnancy. But, avoid taking ulipristal if you are already pregnant. There have been no reported cases of it affecting the fetus but animal studies have shown some negative effects.
You should also not use ECPs as regular birth control pills. Aside from being costly, it would not be as effective. It would also expose you to higher total levels of hormones resulting in hormonal imbalance, and might cause prolonged side effects such as irregular periods, breast tenderness, or nausea.
ECPs does NOT protect you from STDs.
Having the option to use ECPs does not mean you’ll be 100% safe with unprotected sex. It still cannot replace regular birth controp methods. Keep safe!
Read also: Birth control side effects: Your periods change quite a bit
Sources: WebMD, Drugs