Full Circle Blog:

Emergency Contraception: What Options are Available, and When is it Safe to Use?

October 22, 2014

In September, Five Democratic senators introduced legislation that would require any federally-funded hospital to provide emergency contraception to survivors of sexual assault.

This bill would not only provide important access to emergency contraception for rape survivors. It could, additionally, help to push the conversation surrounding emergency contraception back where it belongs: as a private discussion between a woman and her healthcare provider.

As healthcare providers that care deeply about our patients, our staff at Full Circle would like to take action now to open up the conversation around emergency contraception, and invite our patients to discuss their questions, concerns and needs openly with us.

To get us started, we’d like to share 5 facts you may not know about emergency contraception.

1. There Are Two Types

Option one is the “morning after” pill, which is either made up of progestin (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose or Take Action) and ulipristal acetate (ella).

Progestin works by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation) and changing the cervical mucus and the lining of the uterus. Ulipristal “tricks” the body, so to speak, into thinking that ovulation has already occurred and preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries.

Option two is the copper T IUD, which stops sperm from fertilising the egg, affects the transport of the egg in the fallopian tubes and changes changes the lining of the womb, making it less suitable for a pregnancy.

2. It’s not just a “morning after” pill

Most pills reduce the risk of pregnancy up to five days. However, they are most effective when taken within 72 hours (three days) of having unprotected sex. Taking emergency contraception within this period reduces your chance of becoming pregnant to 15%.

An IUD can be used to prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex – if inserted right away, it can reduce the risk of pregnancy to 1%.

3. You May Not Feel Like Yourself

Some women experience nausea, and even throw up, after taking emergency contraceptive pills. Other side effects include headaches, feeling tired or dizzy, abdominal pain and tender breasts. If you do feel this way, know that it should only last for a day or two. Additionally, its not abnormal to experience unexpected bleeding, or for your next period to be either early or late.

If you are using an IUD, expect for your body to go through significant changes for several weeks. Keep ibuprofen on hand in case you experience abdominal cramping. You many, also, experience spotting throughout the first month of using the IUD.

4. You Can Still Use it If You Can’t Use Birth Control

Has your health care provider recommended against using the birth control pill, because you are at risk of stroke, heart disease, blood clots, or other cardiovascular problems? Medical experts agree that estrogen and progestin (the hormones found in emergency contraception) do not carry the same risk as taking daily contraceptives.

5. It’s Different if You’re Breastfeeding

It has not been confirmed whether breast transfers the hormones in emergency contraception. Because of those, we recommend that women who are breastfeeding wait 36 hours after taking it. During the 36 hours after taking the pill, avoid discomfort through using a breastpump to extract and discard your milk.

Have questions, comments or something to add? We’d love to hear from you via Facebook, twitter or email.