Emergency contraception pills are birth control pills that can be taken after an unprotected sexual intercourse for preventing unwanted pregnancy. These pills are also known as ECPs (Emergency Control Pills) and the morning after pills and produce results by altering the hormone levels in the body. There are different types of birth control pills that need to be taken within a certain period of having sex. Levonorgestrel for e.g. has to be taken within 72 hours of having sex for maximum effectiveness. Any delay, and the chances of pregnancy will be highly increased. Then there are some pills that can be taken up to 5 days after having sex. These can, however, be purchased only with a doctor’s prescription.
Apart from pills, there are also other measures like the copper intrauterine device or an IUD. These can prevent pregnancies when inserted into the uterus by controlling the ability of the sperms to swim and function properly. These are much more effective and also more expensive as compared to the hormone pills. When inserted permanently into the uterus, IUDs can control pregnancies for up to 12 years.
Side effects of emergency contraception
Emergency contraception is the most popular means of controlling unwanted pregnancies. However, they may not be as effective as other measures. Although it is not usually the case, emergency pills can sometimes fail to work even when used strictly under the given guidelines. This is because they work by manipulating hormone levels and therefore may not be necessarily effective if there are certain hormonal disruptions in the body. They also do not prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. Further, it has been observed that emergency contraception is not as effective in obese women as these are for those who have a normal weight. There are certain age limits for emergency contraception and are definitely not recommended for regular use.
Emergency pills are best avoided if you face any of the following health conditions that may cause negative interactions:
- Your body is allergic to one or the other component used in the composition of emergency contraception
- The contraception disturbs the effectiveness of some other medications that you have been taking regularly
- If the body is already pregnant. In this case, the pills fail to prevent further development of the egg. Rather, they may hinder the growth process, thus leading to abnormal fetus formation
- If you are breast feeding an infant. Although the entire effects of emergency contraception, in this case, is not very much clear, unbalanced hormone levels have been known to affect the quantity and quality of the milk secreted.
Immediate side effects
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain or cramps in the lower abdomen
- Vaginal bleeding for 2 to 3 days
- Breast tenderness
These symptoms last for 2 to 3 days after taking the pill and they persist for longer than that, a physician should be immediately consulted as it could be signs of a more serious health condition. In case of severe effects, you must avoid the particular pill and consult your physician as to what would be suitable for you.