Emergency contraception is used to prevent pregnancy after having sex without birth control or if a problem occurred with the method of birth control used. It is a good option for women who have had unprotected sex and do not want to become pregnant.
A woman can get pregnant if she has sex around the time of ovulation. During sex, the man ejaculates sperm into the vagina. The sperm travel up through the cervix and into the fallopian tubes.
If a sperm meets an egg in the fallopian tube, fertilization — union of egg and sperm — can occur.
About Emergency Contraception
Emergency contraception is a type of hormonal birth control. It can be used if you have unprotected sex and don't want to get pregnant. It should not be used on a routine basis. You may need emergency contraception if:
If you have had unprotected sex, call your doctor's office right away. Be sure to tell them you need treatment without delay. In some cases, your doctor can call in a prescription for you to your drugstore. You also can call the Emergency Contraception Hotline (888-NOT-2-LATE) to find a doctor who will provide you with a prescription.
Do not use emergency contraception routinely instead of birth control. Regular use of a birth control method is not only more effective, but provides health benefits that emergency contraception does not have.
How Emergency Contraception Works
Emergency contraception is highly effective in preventing pregnancy. Pills must be started within 72 hours of having unprotected sex and will reduce the risk of pregnancy by at least 75 percent. If you are already pregnant, emergency contraception will not work.
There are two types of emergency contraception pills. One type is combined birth control pills (containing both estrogen and progestin). The other type contains only progestin and is safer for women who can't take estrogen.
Both types of pills work the same way. The hormones in these pills prevent pregnancy because they disrupt the normal patterns in the menstrual cycle. Depending on where a woman is in her menstrual cycle, these pills may:
Besides the typical side effects of nausea and vomiting, other side effects may include:
Keep in mind that emergency contraception does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).