After all, sometimes there is an emergent sexual arousal
If you’ve had unprotected intercourse and don’t want to get pregnant, you still have a method of birth control at your disposal: emergency contraception (EC). Unlike other forms of contraception, EC can be used after intercourse to prevent pregnancy. After an unprotected sexual encounter, you have a window of between 3 and 5 days in which to use EC, although the sooner you use it, the better it works.
There are three methods of EC in current use:
- a single dose of contraceptive pills called Plan B,
- a series of two doses of contraceptive pills called the Yuzpe method, and
- insertion of an IUD.
All of these methods are easy to use, and up to 99 per cent of women who use them are able to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Of course, the majority of these women would not have been pregnant in the first place.
Emergency contraceptives work by altering the cervical mucus so that it becomes “hostile” to sperm. They also thin the lining of the uterus, making it very difficult for a fertilized egg to implant. However, in the unlikely event that implantation does occur, EC does not interrupt the pregnancy or put the fetus at risk.
Here are some situations in which EC may be appropriate:
- You had intercourse unexpectedly or without contraception
- You were forced to have sex or awoke to realize you were having sex
- Your partner didn’t “pull out” in time
- You had a contraceptive accident, such as a broken condom or slipped diaphragm
- You forgot to take your birth-control pills for two or more days before having sex
While very safe, EC can cause side effects such as nausea or vomiting. These effects are much less common with Plan B than with the Yuzpe method. If you vomit within an hour of taking EC, you’ll need to retake the dose.
How to get it – Depending on which country you live in (Check local practices)
You can get EC (or a prescription for EC) from
- your doctor,
- a health centre,
- a walk-in clinic,
- a birth control/sexual health clinic or
- directly from your pharmacist.
You can obtain the product in advance and store it for use in case of an emergency, but remember that you should not rely on EC as your primary method of birth control, as it’s less effective than regular contraceptive methods and offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.
Emergency IUD Contraception
Another method of emergency contraception is the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD) within 7 days of unprotected intercourse.
The IUD works by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg and is very effective: only one out of 1,000 women who use this method will get pregnant.
A drawback to using an IUD is that it might be possible to spread a sexually transmitted infection (STI) into your reproductive tract. For this reason, emergency IUDs are best suited to women who’ve had unprotected sex within the context of a long-term, monogamous relationship. Your doctor or local family planning clinic can help you access this form of contraception.