Emergency Contraception (EC) or ‘Morning after pill’
What is EC?
Emergency contraception (EC), also called the morning after pill, is an anti-pregnancy measure that women can use after unsafe sex if they believe they are at risk of an unwanted pregnancy.
EC comes in two formats
- A pill containing the hormone progestin
- Copper intrauterine device (IUD)
EC is not something that can be used on a regular basis. Instead it is a one time measure to be used as its name says, in case of emergency.
When should EC be used?
EC should be used in situations when a woman has been exposed to the risk of getting pregnant and she wants to minimize that risk.
The following are some typical situations when you might consider using EC:
- The condom breaks or slips off and you are not using contraceptives
- After having sex, you realize you have missed one or more contraceptive pills
- The man ejaculates inside you and you are not using contraceptives
- You realize you made an error in calculating your pregnancy safe days
- You were raped or forced to have sex
How does EC work?
Both EC methods are intended to prevent pregnancy in the following ways.
- By making it hard for sperm to reach the fallopian tubes
- By blocking the release of the eggs
- In case the egg has already been fertilized, by making it hard for the egg to implant in the uterine walls.
How long after sex can EC be taken?
EC can be taken up to 5 days from the event that has put you as the woman at risk of unwanted pregnancy.
The sooner you take EC, the higher the probability it will be successful to prevent pregnancy.
Ideally it is best to take it within 24 hours of the sexual act.
How effective is it?
If used correctly and taken sooner, it reduces your chances of getting pregnant.
Is EC safe?
Yes, the EC is safe. Most women have used EC without any problems. Although complications are possible, the fact that it is used for a very limited amount of time reduces any potential risk.
The most common side effect caused by EC are nausea and vomiting
Where can you buy it?
EC can be bought in pharmacies, drugstores, chemists, private and public health facilities.
Does it offer STI protection?
The EC doesn’t offer any protection against STIs.
If you have sex and want protection against STIs, always use a condom.
Also test for STIs at the beginning of the relationship.
Avoid changing partners frequently.