Unintended pregnancy is surprisingly common. At least half of all pregnancies in the United States each year are mistimed or unplanned, because birth control measures were not used or those that were used did not work. An emergency contraceptive pill is available to provide women with another option for preventing unintended pregnancy
There are many options for birth control, but there are also products that have been developed specifically for use
in an emergency.
Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy in a variety of ways. Depending on the time of the month in a woman's cycle, the drug may prevent ovulation (release of the egg from the ovary), interfere with fertilization, or prevent a fertilized egg from attaching in the uterus. They will not induce an abortion if a woman is already pregnant, according to the definition of pregnancy used by the National Institutes of Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Pregnancy Prevention—Nearly 90%
If taken within 120 hours (5 days), emergency contraceptive pills reduce the chance of pregnancy by almost 90% after one act of unprotected sex. The sooner treatment begins, the more likely it will be effective.
Some health experts have reservations about the use of emergency contraception. They argue that women may not take normal precautions. The convenience of swallowing 2 pills may indeed be attractive to those who might otherwise use a barrier method of contraception, like a condom, that helps prevent the spread of
and some other sexually transmitted diseases.
However, studies done to evaluate this topic have repeatedly shown that immediate access to emergency contraception does not alter a woman’s (or adolescent’s) sexual behavior nor contraception choices.
Pills are not the only kind of emergency contraception available. An intrauterine device (IUD) placed in your uterus within 5 days of unprotected sex can act as emergency contraception. An IUD is a type of temporary birth control for women. It is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. IUDs can be hormone-releasing or made of copper. Both are shaped like a letter “T” with a tiny string attached.
An IUD does not stop your ovaries from releasing an egg the way emergency contraceptive pills do. Instead, it can prevent an egg from becoming fertilized or from attaching to the wall of the uterus. Emergency IUD insertion can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 99.9% if it is inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex.
Women 15 and older can get emergency contraceptive pills at any pharmacy, without a prescription. Women under 15 must have a prescription. You can obtain a prescription through Planned Parenthood and most healthcare providers. To identify a clinic or pharmacy that carries emergency contraception, call your physician or the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE.
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Morning-after pill (emergency contraception). Planned Parenthood website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed April 15, 2015.
Piaggio G, von Hertzen H, Grimes DA, Van Look PFA. For: Task Force on Postovulatory Methods of Fertility Regulation. Timing of emergency contraception with levonorgestrel or the Yuzpe regimen.
Task Force on Postovulatory Methods of Fertility Regulation. Randomised controlled trial of levonorgestrel versus the Yuzpe regimen of combined oral contraceptives for emergency contraception.
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5/6/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance ...(Click grey area to select URL) US Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive without a prescription for women 15 years of age and older. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm350230.htm. Updated April 30, 2013. Accessed July 17, 2013.
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