You might have had sex when you didn’t expect or want to. Young people, in particular, are often unprepared the first time they have sex, and the situation is far more common than you might think.
Here are some of the most common reasons women give for needing to use emergency contraceptive pills:
The condom broke.
I started my pack of birth control pills a week late.
We’re usually so careful, but this time we just got carried away.
We had so much to drink, we didn’t even think about contraception.
I talked myself into thinking it was okay not to use birth control this one time.
I barely knew him. I told him I didn’t want to sleep with him, but he forced me to have sex anyway.
Whatever the reason you might need emergency contraception and you can use emergency contraception (also called “morning after pills”) any time you need a second chance to prevent pregnancy after sex.
Below are seven things you should know about E-pills:
1. E-pills are not 100 percent effective
Most ladies desperately attach a lot of hope on the “morning after” pills; strongly believing that they will not get pregnant after engaging in unprotected sex. What they don’t know, or want to hear is E-pills are never 100 percent effective.
There’s no birth control method that prevents pregnancy 100 percent of the time, medics say.
EC significantly reduces the chances of a pregnancy occurring. There are two factors that influence its effectiveness: the amount of time since unprotected sex, and the point in a woman’s cycle at which she had sex.
Combined EC pills are about 75 percent effective. Progestin-only EC pills are 89 percent effective if used within 72 hours and 95 percent effective if used within 24 hours.
The sooner a woman takes EC after unprotected sex, the more likely a pregnancy can be prevented.
2. E-pills do not protect against STDs
Some cunning men when soliciting for unprotected sex from women, tell them that E-pills will protect them against sexually transmitted diseases; including HIV/AIDS – that is not true.
EC does not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
3. Emergency Contraception does not hurt the fetus
There is no evidence that EC causes birth defects. However, there have been no studies specific to taking birth control at this dosage.
What is known is that babies born to women who continue taking birth control pills before finding out they are pregnant do not have higher rates of birth defects.
EC should not be confused with a medical abortion or with RU 486, the medication that can be used to induce abortions.
4. Emergency Contraception can be used by most women
Even women who cannot take oral contraceptives for birth control can take them for emergency contraception because they are only used for a brief period of time – but only after seeking advice from a medical practitioner.
Some women may suffer side effects when taking EC. About 50 percent of women taking the combined estrogen and progestin pills and 20 percent taking progestin-only pills feel nauseated.
Similarly, approximately 6 percent of women who take progestin-only pills and 20 percent taking combination pills experience vomiting.
5. It is advisable to obtain EC from hospitals, qualified medical personnel
If EC is a treatment you want to obtain, ask the personnel at the hospital where you are being treated if you can get EC there.
Some hospitals, for religious or ethical reasons, will not administer EC in certain circumstances.
EC is also available from drugstores and health centers without a prescription for women and men 17 and older. The cost of EC varies and may be anywhere from Ksh150.
If you cannot afford to purchase EC, there may be an organization or health clinic in the immediate area that will provide EC for free or at a reduced rate
6. Always double check the expiry date of the E-pills administered
Emergency contraceptive pills can prevent pregnancy up to 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex – when the expiry date of the tabs had passed, chances are high they will not be effective.
Studies have shown that even if EC pills are taken as late as 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected intercourse, they may prevent pregnancy. However, it is most effective within the first 24 hours. The sooner EC is used, the more likely it is to prevent pregnancy.
EC prevents pregnancy by temporarily stopping eggs from being released from the ovary (ovulation).
It also may stop the egg and sperm from meeting (fertilization) or prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus (implantation). If you are already pregnant, emergency contraceptive pills are not useful.
7. It’s not harmful to take E-pills more than once
RH Reality Check says: “From a medical perspective, there are no medical consequences to taking emergency contraception more than once. The hormone contained in the pill is the same as ones found in the birth control pill – and that naturally occur in your body. It will not have a long-term effect on your reproductive health. You may notice irregular bleeding patterns and your period may be early or late, but emergency contraception will not affect your fertility, or become less effective over time. In fact it will not even harm a pregnancy if you’ve already become pregnant.
However, if you find yourself continuously having to take emergency contraception, it may be time to reexamine your method of birth control.
Emergency contraception works well as a safety net. But it’s still far less effective at preventing pregnancy than most other methods of birth control. That means that the more often you take it, the more likely you are statistically to hit upon that one time it doesn’t work.