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Emergency Contraception

emergency contraceptives, family planning, reproductive health

At A Glance:

  • Contraceptive pills or copper IUDs can both be used as emergency contraception after unprotected sex to decrease the chances of pregnancy.
  • Should only be used after unprotected sex, if another contraceptive method failed, or if no contraception was used.
  • Can be used up to five days after unprotected sex. Pills can be up to 88% effective if taken within 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex. The sooner, the better.
  • The Yuzpe Method is not guaranteed as effective as daily intake of pills as a regular contraceptive method.
  • Copper IUDs are 99.9% effective if inserted within 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex.

What Is It

Emergency contraception lessens the chances of a woman getting pregnant if taken within the first few days after unprotected sex. It should be taken as a last resort when other contraceptive methods failed or were not used during unplanned sex.

You may want to use it if:

  • you weren’t using any contraceptive when you had sex
  • you forgot to take your pills or use condoms
  • your partner’s condom broke or slipped off
  • your partner didn’t pull out in time or
  • you were forced to have unprotected vaginal sex

Emergency contraceptive pills are also called “morning after pills,” which gives the wrong impression that they should be taken the morning after unprotected sex, when in fact, they can already be taken as soon as possible without having to wait for the morning after.

In the Philippines, the daily oral contraceptive pills available can be used as emergency contraception through a specific method. The Yuzpe Method prevents pregnancy before it happens; it’s a backup plan, and should not be done regularly. If you are interested in taking oral contraceptive pills as a regular method of contraception, consult your healthcare provider to know more. It is also strongly advised to consult a healthcare provider when using the Yuzpe Method.

Copper IUDs are available in the Philippines, and can also be used as emergency contraception in case of unprotected sex. If inserted by a healthcare provider within 120 hours (five days) after the incident, it is up to 99.9% effective—even on the fifth day— and can be left for up to ten years if you have decided to use it as an ongoing contraceptive method. This makes the copper IUD the most effective emergency contraception. Although the initial cost is quite a bit more expensive, it’s highly effective for years. Talk to your healthcare provider if you want to know more about getting an IUD.

How It Works

Pregnancy doesn’t happen immediately after sex, which is why preventing it after unprotected sex is still possible. Take note: it can take up to seven days for the sperm cell and egg cell to meet after sex.

Pills prevent the sperm cell and egg cell from meeting and result in pregnancy by releasing a large dosage of the hormones estrogen and progestin in the body. Through this, the egg cell is stopped or delayed from leaving the ovary and traveling to the uterus for fertilization.

The Yuzpe Method lessens the chances of pregnancy to happen if taken within the first few days after unprotected sex; however, how much the chances are reduced depends on how soon the pills are taken after the incident, and at what stage the woman’s menstrual cycle is already when she takes it. The chances of getting pregnant are higher when the woman had unprotected sex during the 2nd or 3rd week of her menstrual cycle; this makes the effectiveness rate not absolute. It’s always better to use a regular form of contraception, such as a condom or the daily oral contraceptive pills.

Copper IUDs work as an emergency contraceptive because they affect how sperm cells move, and thus preventing them from meeting an egg cell up to five days after unprotected sex. In case the egg cell was fertilized by a sperm cell, the copper IUD also prevents the fertilized egg cell from implanting itself in the uterine lining, which prevents pregnancy once again.

How To Use It

Do the Yuzpe Method as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Although it can reduce the risk of pregnancy if used within 72 hours after the incident, taking it sooner makes it more effective.

Take four (4) combined oral contraceptive pills (containing both hormones estrogen and progestin), such as Trust Pills, Lady pills, or Charlize pills, as soon as possible. Follow this with another dose of four (4) pills 12 hours later. You should be able to take a total of eight (8) pills.

If vomiting occurs within 2 hours after taking either of the doses, you need to repeat that dose. Remember, the sooner the pills are taken, the better.

It’s normal for your next period to be different from normal after taking emergency contraception.

  • It may come earlier or later than usual
  • It may be heavier, lighter, more spotty, the same as usual

You may also feel dizzy and nauseous after taking the pills.

If you have a copper IUD inserted within five days of unprotected sex, it can lower the chances of pregnancy by 99.9%. To undergo the procedure, you’ll have to make an appointment with a healthcare provider.

The Positives

  • Pregnancy can be prevented after unprotected, unplanned or unsolicited sex.
  • Offers more protection and peace of mind than doing nothing.
  • Easy to use.
  • Copper IUDs are 99.9% effective and can be used for up to ten years.

The Negatives

Pills

  • Can cause an upset stomach and vomiting.
  • Could cause breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, dizziness, headaches (short-term), and temporary changes to the menstrual cycle.
  • The Yuzpe Method should be done.

Copper IUD

  • May cause cramping after insertion
  • Might lead to heavier or longer periods
  • Need to make an appointment with doctor for insertion

Sources:

Department of Health. The Philippine Clinical Standards Manual on Family Planning (2014 Edition). Manila, Philippines: DOH. 2014. Pp231-239

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/emergency-contraception

https://www.familyplanning.org.nz/clinics/services/emergency-contraception-copper-iud

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