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The ins and outs of the emergency contraceptive pill

23 May 2017 09:34 AM - By GTF Admin
The ins and outs of the emergency contraceptive pill

With such a wide range of effective contraception available, preventing unplanned pregnancy can be pretty straight forward. But occasionally accidents happen. Luckily, there is a backup! What is it? The emergency contraceptive pill.

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Also known as the morning after pill, the emergency contraceptive pill is a hormone pill that can be taken by females to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex. The emergency contraceptive pill is a small, one dose tablet that can be taken in situations where;

  • you didn't use any contraception
  • you forgot to take the contraceptive pill
  • you had vomiting or diarrhoea or had to go on particular antibiotics, which can make the contraceptive pill ineffective
  • you didn't use a condom
  • the condom broke or came off
  • you have been sexually assaulted.

Can I only take it the morning after having unprotected sex?

Although the emergency contraceptive pill is also sometimes called the morning after pill, this can be misleading. The emergency contraceptive pill works best when taken within 24 hours of unprotected sex, but can be taken up to five days (or 120 hours) after. However, the longer you wait to take it the less effective it will be at preventing pregnancy.

Do I have to go to the Doctor?

You can get the emergency contraceptive pill from your doctor, but it is also available at pharmacies and sexual health clinics. When getting the emergency contraceptive pill you might get asked;

  • why you need it - if you usually use contraception and which type
  • how long it has been since you had unprotected sex
  • when you last had your period
  • if you are taking any other medications or have any health conditions
  • if you are experiencing any symptoms.

This information helps health professionals to know whether the emergency contraceptive pill is suitable for you to take. This information is private and won't be shared with anyone.

I'm a bit worried about taking it, will it make me feel sick?

The emergency contraceptive pill contains hormones that work to prevent the fertilisation of a female's egg. For some people these hormones might make them feel sick on the day, but others may not feel sick at all. After this, there are no long-term side effects on your body. If you do vomit within two hours after taking the pill it's important to see a doctor or health care worker straight away.

How old do I have to be to get the emergency contraceptive pill?

In Western Australia there is no legal age limit to get the emergency contraceptive pill.

Are there any other options?

Even though the emergency contraceptive pill is the most commonly used type of emergency contraception, it's not the only option. An intra-uterine device (IUD) can also be inserted into the uterus up to five days after having unprotected sex to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.

How do I know if the emergency contraception has worked?

It is strongly recommended that you complete a pregnancy test three weeks after just to make sure it has been effective. This can be done using a home pregnancy test or by visiting your doctor or sexual health clinic.

What next? Planning for safer sex!

Emergency contraception should be used for exactly that - an emergency. It should not be relied on as a frequent form of contraception. If you're not using any contraception now is the perfect time to look at your options (there are many!). Check out our types of contraception page to see what's available and make sure you see your doctor or health care worker to help you make this decision.

If you have had unprotected sex, you may also be at risk of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most STIs don’t have symptoms so even if you feel ok, it's important to see your doctor to get an STI test just to be sure. STI tests are quick and painless, and most STIs are easily treated.

Remember that condoms are the only form of contraception that prevents both unplanned pregnancy AND STIs! Have a read of our post on Condoms: the good, the bad and the fun!

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