Is emergency contraception really a so-called “hormonal bomb”? Is it really bad for women’s bodies? Can it lead to fetus malformation or infertility in the long term? Are all these terrifying beliefs about emergency contraception really true? Let’s find the accurate information you need to know before you find yourself needing emergency contraception.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), and the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) state that emergency contraception is safe.
Emergency contraception interrupts or delays ovulation, a phase where your ovary releases an egg, by five to seven days. Pregnancy can be prevented by natural death of the sperm as sperm can only survive in the women’s reproductive organs for about five days.
Depending on your countries laws emergency contraception may be available off the shelf, over the counter, or by prescription only. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, remote services offering emergency contraception have become more common. Look up your countries rules to be prepared just in case. If you need a prescription any doctor should be able to fill it, but if possible an OB/GYN may be more knowledgeable.
Depending on your countries laws and health care standards the cost can vary. In South Korea the total cost is around ₩30,000 to 50,000 (KRW). In Japan it can cost between ¥10,000 to 20,000 (JYP). Over-the-counter in Australia it can cost between $15 and 45 (AUD). Generally medication available off the shelf or over the counter is cheaper than for those that require a prescription.
There are two types of emergency contraception: Levonorgestrel (LNG) and ulipristal acetate (UPA). LNG’s contraceptive effect is best when taken within three days, while UPA is approved for within five days.
Eight out of a hundred women get pregnant from unprotected sex after two to three weeks of starting menstruation. The chances of getting pregnant after taking UPA emergency contraception is less than 1/100, while the likelihood after taking LNG emergency contraception is around 1/100.
It is best to take it as quickly and promptly as possible. You prevent pregnancy more effectively the sooner you take emergency contraception.
- Changes in menstrual patterns You may have small and irregular menstrual flow for one to two days, or your period may come earlier or later than expected.
- Nausea and vomiting You may experience nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, breast pain, dizziness, and vomiting. Nausea and vomiting are less severe than when taking combined oral contraceptives.
- Nausea If you have experienced nausea from taking emergency contraception in the past, you can use antiemetics 30 minutes to 1 hour before taking the emergency contraception.
- Vomit You have to take the emergency contraception again if you vomit within two hours of intake with LNG or three hours of intake with UPA. There is no need to take it again if you vomit past those timeframes.
- Delayed Menstrual Cycle You should see a specialist if your menstrual cycle is delayed for more than seven days or symptoms of side effects do not improve.
No. The amount of active hormone in emergency contraception is less than half of the amount of one cycle of standard birth control pills. Therefore, the side effects of emergency contraception are not serious, and they do not last for a long time.
No. The WHO recommends including emergency contraception in the supply chain of essential pharmaceuticals and using it along with other contraceptives. WHO informs us through its guidelines that emergency contraception is not dangerous to women’s health. Emergency contraception is safe for all women including adolescents, women with HIV, women treated with antiviral drugs, and women who cannot continue hormonal therapy. Emergency contraception neither increases the chances of ectopic pregnancy nor leads to infertility.
For best practice and highest chances of success official recommendations state that “emergency contraception must be used within 72 hours of sex and can only be used once during the menstrual cycle as it exposes you to a higher dose of hormones than general contraception”. The reality is, however, that emergency contraception can take effect even within five days, but the effects do decrease the more intake is delayed. You can also take it more than once even within the same menstrual cycle if needed. There is no limit to how much it can be taken in a lifetime, as the effects do not add up over time.
Yes, they can. Emergency contraception is safe for all women including adolescents. The International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) emphasizes that “adolescents with vulnerability in society should be able to access emergency contraception easily.” Prescribing to adolescents is legal in many countries including South Korea, Australia and Thailand. Some countries like the Philippines require the consent of a parent or guardian.
No, this is not the case. WHO recommends supplying emergency contraception to women in advance. According to research, providing emergency contraception in advance does not increase the chances of sex without contraceptives. Emergency contraception can be obtained as an over-the-counter drug or without a prescription in Canada, China, India, the US, and many other countries.
No, this is not the case. It does not take effect if you're already pregnant. Emergency contraception prevents ovulation, the release of an egg. If this egg has already been released then the pill will have no effect.
No, this is not the case. There is no scientific evidence that emergency contraception can lead to miscarriage or threaten the health of the baby.
No, this is not the case. The ingredients of emergency contraception in the body disappear within a few days, and there have been no reports of addiction or toxicity reaction. There are also no risks due to overdose, major drug interaction, or contraindication.
There are no known dangers to health associated with the repetitive use of emergency contraception. However, using emergency contraception as regular birth control is not recommended. Whether taking emergency contraception every time you have sex is just as effective as regular oral contraception pills is unknown. Moreover, women who frequently use emergency contraception may experience more side effects.