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Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception


Plan B is the most widely known pill form of emergency contraception. It consists of only progestin. Plan B contains two pills that taken twelve hours apart. Alternatively, Plan B One Step is taken as single dose. The two regimens are equally effective. It is important to remember that taking Plan B does not guarantee that you won’t get pregnant. If taken as instructed, within 72 hours of unprotected sex, Plan B prevents only 50% of pregnancies. Plan B is available at pharmacies, over the counter, to those 18 years or older without a prescription. It works mainly by delaying ovulation but will not end a current pregnancy.   Common side effects of Plan B are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache and menstrual changes. 

Another method of emergency contraception is the copper IUD.  The copper IUD is inserted in the uterus by a physician during an office visit.  Copper IUDs create an inflammatory response inside the uterus that creates an unfavorable environment for implantation.  As emergency contraception, the copper IUD prevents 95% of pregnancies. In addition, once this IUD is placed in the uterus it can remain for up to ten years with the added benefit of providing reversible, low maintenance and long-term contraception.  

It is important to avoid myths in emergency contraception.  Douching after sex will not prevent pregnancy. The withdrawal method, in which the male partner withdraws before ejaculation “coitus interruptus”, is also not an effective method of preventing pregnancy.  Pre-ejaculatory semen contains sperm that can fertilize a female's egg.  DIY barrier contraceptives, such as food wrap as a makeshift male condom, will also not be effective in preventing pregnancy.  Avoid using expired condoms and make sure to use them correctly.  If a condom breaks or slips off during sexual intercourse it is very possible that both partners have been exposed.  Consider using emergency contraception in these situations.

Kirstie Cunningham, MD, FACOG President, Metro Health and Wellness, LLC

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