We all know the morning after pill, but there are a range of emergency contraception options available to women whose other contraception has failed, who are not on birth control, or who did not use contraception during sex. Even if you are on birth control, you may still need emergency contraception after having sex if you did not take the birth control pill on time. What types of emergency birth control methods exist and when should you take them?
Hormonal – The Morning After Pill
The first type of emergency contraception is hormonal. These pills are often referred to as the “morning after pill” and usually contain a mixture of estrogen and progestin (or, in some cases, just progestin). The sooner after unprotected sex these pills are taken, the more effective they will be, though some are effective up to five days afterwards.
There are 2 types of morning-after pills:
- A pill with ulipristal acetate. Ella is the only brand providing this.
- A pill with levonorgestrel. There are multiple brands offering this like: AfterPill, My Way, Plan B One Step, Take Action etc.
Where to get the morning after pill?
Hormonal emergency contraception is usually available over the counter, from a pharmacy, without a prescription. In the past, a woman would have to speak with her doctor before being able to get one of these pills. Today they are more readily available.
The two brands on the market are Levonelle (take within 72 hours of sex) and ellaOne (120 hours). Even though the manufacturers have established maximum times, it is always best to take the morning after pill as soon as possible after sex.
The second type of emergency contraception comes in the form of a copper IUD. If you have an IUD inserted less than seven days after unprotected sex, it can be very effective at preventing pregnancy. What this method does is to make the uterus completely unreceptive to sperm. If inserted before ovulation, it will kill off the sperm before it can meet an egg. If inserted after ovulation, it will make it impossible for a fertilized egg to actually implant itself in the uterus.
This is the most effective type of emergency contraception, but usually has to be inserted at a doctor’s office that has a qualified medical professional and access to the IUD. The IUD is the most effective type of EC — it works 99 times out of 100. Read here about the the pros and cons of having an IUD.
When Can I Use Emergency Contraception?
Some women will use emergency contraception in the place of more traditional contraception like condoms or birth control pills. Emergency contraception is actually not as effective as birth control and other contraception methods, making it very important for a woman not to rely expressly on that as her only method of preventing pregnancy. Emergency birth control should definitely be used if you’ve forgotten to take the (combination) pill more than two days in a row (with mini-pills already after 3 hrs), if a condom broke or leaked or if no birth control was used at all.
Mikko Törmä is certified pharmacist and has over 15 years experience in pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy and has worked also in Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Mikko is a professional writer who’s main focus is to make medical science simple to read and understandable, so that ordinary people can easily benefit from the research & recommendations made by professionals. His deepest interest is in the public health and to provide fair access to primary health care for everyone.