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Emergency Contraception

This is a method of contraception that can be used after unprotected sex – whether in the absence of a contraceptive method or in instances where a contraceptive method has failed (a leaked condom, missed pill, etc.). Emergency contraception is not to be considered a regular method of contraception. It is essential to use a reliable contraceptive method and to be aware of the risks carried by unprotected sex, such as sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS.

Methods of Emergency Contraception

There are two methods of emergency contraception that can be used.

Up to five days: Emergency Contraceptive Pills

Description: Also known (incorrectly) as the ‘morning after pill’, it must be taken within 120 hours (five days) of unprotected sex. A specially formulated emergency contraceptive pill, such as Postinor, may be taken.

Four pills from a regular monthly contraceptive pill packet, available at MSS centres and most pharmacies, can also be taken. The first dose should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex and a repeated dose should be taken after 12 hours.

The pills work by stopping an egg from being released, stopping the sperm from reaching an egg, or preventing a fertilized egg from settling in the uterus. A second pill needs to be taken immediately if vomiting occurs within two hours of taking the first pill. Some women may experience a change in their menstrual pattern or some irregular bleeding or spotting.

Availability: All MSS centres.

Effectiveness:It is 95% effective if taken within 24 hours after unprotected sex. Effectiveness reduces with the passage of time.

Up to five days: Intrauterine Device (IUD / Coil):

If it is too late for taking the emergency contraceptive pill, then an IUD, also known as a Coil, can be inserted/fitted up to seven days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. The IUD works by preventing an egg from being fertilized or implanted in the uterus. The IUD can be left in as a form of regular contraception or can be removed when need be.

Effectiveness: 98%-99%.

Description: An IUD (also known as a Coil) is a small plastic and copper device, usually shaped like a T (Copper T) or inverted U (Multiload), which is fitted into the woman’s uterus by a doctor using a simple procedure. It works by preventing an egg from settling in the uterus. An IUD can stay in place for five years (Multiload) or twelve years (Copper T).

Considerations: An IUD offers no protection from sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS. It may cause heavier, more painful periods, which settle within three months of insertion.

Availability: All MSS centres.

Effectiveness: 98%-99%.