You may have had a momentary lapse of good judgment, and suddenly find yourself the next morning, concerned that, "you could be pregnant." Or maybe the condom tore or shifted, or maybe the diaphragm was old and had a tiny hole.....or you might have had an unwanted sexual encounter. Whatever the reason, emergency contraception is available in the form of a drug or device.
Though sometimes called the "morning after pill," you actually have up to 72 hours after unprotected sex to take emergency contraception in pill form. The Preven kit (estrogen and progesterone) and Plan B One-Step (progesterone) are the two most available (by prescription) emergency contraception pills. They contain the same hormones found in traditional contraception, but in higher doses. These options are for emergency use and not recommended as a general method of contraception. They are also not intended to terminate a pregnancy and should not be confused with RU-486 or Mifeprex. You can also check with your doctor to see if there is a possibility that you can take a certain dose of your current birth control pills as emergency contraception.
[READ: Types of Emergency Contraception]
Emergency contraception has an excellent track record, and after use, fertility returns to normal. You should not use emergency contraception if you are pregnant,or have undiagnosed vaginal bleeding. Since emergency contraception is not 100% effective, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe abdominal pains, which could indicate a tubal pregnancy. You also need to realize that emergency contraception will not help if you were exposed to an STD. That possibility needs to be handled separately and should be considered another health issue to address, if you cannot substantiate the sexual health of your partner. Pain, itching, sores or discharge that develops after an unprotected sexual encounter should be considered suspicious of an STD.
Emergency contraception can have some of the same side effects as traditional contraception. Common side effects include:
- Abdominal pain
- Tubal pregnancy
Emergency contraception can be obtained from private doctors, on-campus medical centers, public and private women's health centers, Planned Parenthood and some hospital emergency rooms. Obviously your best protection when you are sexually active, is to make sure an effective method of birth control is in place at all times.