Morning-after pill; Postcoital contraception; Birth control - emergency; Plan B
Emergency contraception is a method to prevent pregnancy in women who have had unprotected sex or when birth control methods have failed. It may be used after the following situations:
Emergency contraception medicine is not the same as the "abortion pill."
Emergency contraception prevents or delays the release of an egg from a woman's ovaries.
TYPES OF EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
Several types of emergency contraception drugs are available. Two emergency contraceptive pills have been approved:
Birth control pills, if available, may also be used for emergency contraception. It is best to talk to your health care provider about the correct dosage before doing this. In general, you must take two to five birth control pills at the same time to have the same effect as emergency contraception.
A copper-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) may be used as an alternative emergency contraception method. It must be inserted by your health care provider within 5 days of having unprotected sex. Your doctor can remove it after your next period, or you may choose to leave it in place to provide ongoing birth control.
MORE ABOUT EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS
Women ages 17 and older can buy Plan B One-Step and Next Choice at a pharmacy without a prescription or visit to the doctor. Younger girls need to contact a health care provider to get a prescription for these pills.
Emergency contraception works best when you use it within 24 hours of having sex. However, it may still prevent pregnancy for up to 5 days after you first had sex.
Emergency contraception may cause side effects. Most are mild. They may include:
Stomach aches are most common when an estrogen-containing pill is used. Side effects are less common with Plan B, which contains a synthetic progesterone.
After you use emergency contraception, your next menstrual cycle may start earlier or later than usual. Your menstrual flow may be lighter or heavier than usual.
Sometime, emergency contraception does not work. However, research suggests that emergency contraceptives have no long-term effects on the pregnancy or developing baby.
OTHER IMPORTANT FACTS
You should not use emergency contraception if:
You may be able to use emergency contraception even if you cannot regularly take birth control pills. Talk to your doctor about your options.
Emergency contraception should not be used as a routine birth control method, because it is actually less effective at preventing pregnancies than most types of birth control.
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Amy JJ, Tripathi V. Contraception for women: an evidence based overview. BMJ. 2009;339:b2895.doi:10.1136/bmj.b2895.
Prine L. Emergency contraception: myths and facts. Obstet Gynecol Clin N Am. 2007;34:127–136
Mischell DR. Family planning: contraception, sterilization, and pregnancy termination. In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 14.
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