Birth Control Overview (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
What emergency contraception is available to prevent pregnancy?
Emergency contraception (birth control after sexual intercourse) is defined as the use of a drug or device to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse. Emergency contraception can be used when a there is a condom failure, following a sexual assault, or on any occasion following unprotected sexual intercourse. An example is the "morning after pill."
Unwanted pregnancy is common. Worldwide, about 50 million pregnancies are ended each year. In the United States each year, the widespread use of emergency contraception may have prevented over 1 million abortions and 2 million unwanted pregnancies. Emergency contraceptives available in the United States include the emergency contraceptive pills and the Copper T380 IUD. A number of brands of "morning after" contraceptives are available without a prescription. Women who have had unprotected sexual intercourse may elect to use emergency contraception within the following 72 hours (3 days). There are no specific signs and symptoms of pregnancy during the first 2-3 days, when the morning-after pill needs to be employed. A woman will never know whether the pill prevented an unwanted pregnancy.
Emergency contraception should not be used as an ongoing birth control contraceptive method if you are sexually active or planning to be because they are not as effective as any ongoing contraceptive method. The "morning after pills" contain high doses of the same hormones found in standard birth control pills. There are few known risks in emergency hormone pill regimens, because the high-dose of hormones is short lived. Several cases of deep vein thrombosis (blood clotting) have been reported in women using this emergency method. These pills will not work to terminate an existing pregnancy.
Emergency contraceptive pills and the mini-pill emergency contraception method: The emergency contraception pills (Preven) use 2 birth control pills, each containing ethinyl estradiol and norgestrel, taken 12 hours apart for a total of 4 pills. The first dose should be taken within the first 72 hours following unprotected intercourse. The mode of action of this pill regimen has not been clearly established. A menstrual period and fertility return with the next cycle.
Copper T380 intrauterine device: The Copper T380 IUD can be inserted as many as 7 days after unprotected sexual intercourse to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/26/2016
Wayne Blocker, MD
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