Contraception, or as we usually call it, birth control, prevents unwanted pregnancy by interfering with the usual process of development of a pregnancy.

In India, where even discussing sex is taboo, most teenagers begin their sexual activity without knowing anything about sexuality, contraception methods, or protection against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

Sexually active unmarried adolescents and young adults who do not or cannot access proper contraceptives, may face unintended pregnancy. Whether married or unmarried, adolescents and adults may develop serious physical, psychological, and social consequences from unprotected sexual relations, ranging from early and unwanted pregnancy, childbirth, and unsafe abortion to STDs, including HIV/AIDS. In a society like ours, where sexism against women and girls prevails, the consequences can also be far-reaching and affect their future lives.

Thus, to avoid the complications of unplanned premarital pregnancy, doctors suggest taking emergency contraception in case of unprotected penetrative sex. So, what is emergency contraception? 

Emergency contraception is a birth control method, often called the morning-after pill. Using it within five days of having unprotected sex can help prevent pregnancy. but emergency contraception works best when taken within three days after sex.  

All oral contraceptive pills and Intrauterine devices (IUDs) can be used as emergency contraception. However, under the National Reproductive and Child Health Programme, the Drug Controller of India has approved only Levonorgestrel 0.75 mg tablets to be used as emergency contraception. So from here on, Emergency Contraception in this blog will refer to the Emergency Contraceptive Pills available in India.

How Does Emergency Contraception Work?

Emergency contraception prevents pregnancies by delaying or preventing ovulation. However, it is essential to note that if fertilization has already occurred, these pills may not be effective. Thus, contraception pills cannot be used to cause an abortion.

Exactly How Effective Are ECPs?

If ECP is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it is 85% effective. It is also possible that about 2 in every 100 women who use this contraceptive method can become pregnant even after taking the pills within 72 hours following unprotected sex. The delay in taking the pills decreases the efficiency of emergency contraception.

So in actuality, the effectiveness of the pills can vary from person to person and also depends on how delayed is the intake of the pill

Keep in mind that contraception pills are most effective when they are taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.

ECPs will not prevent pregnancy if you take the pills before unprotected sex. Therefore, taking your pills as soon as possible after engaging in unprotected sex is vital. 

Side Effects Of Emergency Contraception Pills

ECPs have some minor side effects for a few days, including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Breast Tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Spotting

Sometimes a girl’s menstruation cycle may be temporarily irregular after taking ECPs.

While facing some side effects is normal, it becomes necessary to contact a doctor when you are facing the above symptoms in severity or you experience the following symptoms after taking emergency contraceptive pills:

  • A change in the smell or colour of the vaginal discharge
  • Unexplained fever or chills
  • Pain during sex
  • Belly or pelvic pain
  • Heavy or long-lasting vaginal bleeding
  • Miss your period within four weeks of using emergency contraception

Any specific criteria you need to meet to take ECPs?

Any woman or girl of reproductive age can take ECPs to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. There are no absolute medical constrictions or age limits to using emergency contraception pills.  

Remember that emergency contraception will not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Therefore, couples having penetrative sex must always use condoms to protect themselves against STIs, even using other birth control methods.

Where can you get emergency contraceptive pills?

Well-informed healthcare providers can provide these pills, such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, and community-based health workers. You can also order them from many online pharmacies if you don’t feel comfortable buying them in person. However, as these pills need to be taken ASAP after engaging in sexual intercourse, our advice is to get them at the local medical store.

*In India, ECPs cannot be denied to clients irrespective of age and marital status.

Remember that emergency contraception pills, like their name, are to be taken in case of an emergency. They are in no way an alternative to using condoms and other regular birth control pills.