#LetsTalkFertility: 5 Things to Know About the Morning-After Pill
Had an “oops” moment in the bedroom? Be grateful that Plan B (emergency contraception) is available.
An unwanted pregnancy is a nightmare and emergency contraception is the best bet to stall the after-effects of your sexcapades. Even though sales of i-pill and other emergency contraceptives are very high in India, the science on how they work and when they work best is still not well understood. So whether you’ve used Plan B or not, if you have a sex life, read all about them below (because an accident in the bedroom can happen to anyone):
1. It Is NOT the Same as an Abortion Pill
Emergency contraception works by delaying ovulation and sometimes, prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus lining. What it won’t do is terminate an existing pregnancy. So if a pregnancy has already happened, don’t assume that over-dosing on an i-pill will cause an abortion. It’s just not capable of doing so.
2. Nor Is It Your First Line of Contraception
It’s called Plan B because it is only for emergencies. The i-pill or any other morning-after pill should not be misused as an excuse to practise unsafe sex. The manufacturers clearly state that a woman shouldn’t pop in these pills more than once in a menstrual cycle - however, it would be totally naive to think they can be taken so regularly.
If you think it’s healthy to take emergency contraception more than twice in 6 months, then you’re being foolish. It is designed for emergency use, the long-term side-effects of high-dose hormonal drugs are not known, but they are definitely not a blessing to a woman’s fertility.Dr Rekha Daver, Gynaecologist
I must emphasise, the long-term effects of high dose hormones in young girls, especially during puberty have not been studied.
The primary ingredient in most emergency contraception pills is levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of the hormone progestin. This hormone is also the main ingredient in most birth control pills - so emergency contraception is basically just like super high dose birth control pills and its primary action is to stop the fertilisation of eggs and sperms.
3. Don’t Wait For the Morning-After to Take The Pill
You’ve seen the ads - emergency contraception should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex but it’s most effective the sooner you take it. It is most effective if taken within 12 hours of unsafe sex, and the efficacy drops thereafter. So you should never wait to take emergency contraception, if you think it is too late, call your doctor and discuss your options. You might still have some time.
4. Safe for a One Time Use But Will Mess Up Your Menstrual Cycle
These pills come with minor unpleasant side-effects like nausea, metallic taste in your mouth for 2 to 3 hours and excess flow in your next period. If you depend on them too much (anything more than 3 or 4 times a year), it will play havoc with your cycle, make your periods unpredictable, with spotting becoming constant.
5. You Can Still Get Pregnant
Spoiler: The pill comes with a 10% failure rate. So 1 in 10 women will end up with an unwanted pregnancy! A lot depends on when you take the pill, emergency contraception is most effective if the egg and sperm haven’t fertilised, and also on where you are in your menstrual cycle, so if you are in your ‘safe dates’ chances are the i-pill will do its work. No form of emergency contraception is 100% protective, though copper IUDs come close. So if your periods get late, get yourself tested for pregnancy.
Also, go for condoms because emergency contraception doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
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