Emergency Contraceptive Pills : morning after pills

EC pills are also known as ‘morning after pills’. They contain high doses of either 1 or 2 hormones – a progestin and an estrogen – like the natural hormones progesterone and estrogen that are found in a woman’s body.

A woman takes EC pills to help prevent pregnancy within 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex. Examples of dedicated EC products: Postinor 2, Smart Lady, Ecee, and Truston. A woman can also use Oral Contraceptives, such as Femiplan and Microgynon, as EC pills but they must be taken in high dozes as advised by a pharmacist or health provider.
EC pills should only be used in an emergency situation such as:
• A condom breaks during sex
• A woman is forced to have sex or raped without a condom
• A woman fails to use her regular contraceptive as required e.g. forgetting to take Every day pills for more than 3 days, or delaying to get the next injection by more than 2 weeks
How do they work?
EC pills work in various ways depending on the time in a woman’s menstrual cycle when unprotected sex took place and when the EC pills are taken. They may:
• Inhibit or delay an egg from being released from the ovary (ovulation)
• Prevent sperm and egg from uniting (fertilization)
• Prevent a fertilized egg from attaching itself to the uterus (implantation)
Are they effective?
EC pills are highly effective in preventing pregnancy if taken correctly and within 120hours of having unprotected sex.

Are they safe?
All women can use EC pills safely and effectively, including women who cannot use hormonal contraceptives such as Every day pills and 3-month injection. Because of the short-term nature of their use, there are no medical conditions that make EC pills unsafe for any woman.
• Offer women a second chance at preventing pregnancy in case of an emergency
• Reduce the need to seek out abortion in case a regular contraceptive is not used correctly or consistently
• Can be used without tests and examinations
Common side effects / limitations?
• Only prevent pregnancy from sex acts that took place 5 days (120 hrs) before taking the pills. Sex acts that take place after taking EC pills, even after a few hours, are not protected.
• Not as effective as regular contraceptives such as Every day pills and 3-month injections; EC pills are about 50 – 90% effective in preventing pregnancy depending on when the pills are taken.
• Changes in bleeding patterns e.g. slight irregular bleeding for 1-2 days after taking pills, or monthly bleeding starts earlier or later than expected
• Mild short term side effects in the week after taking EC pills e.g. nausea, vomiting, headaches, fatigue, abdominal pain, breast tenderness, & dizziness.
• Do not protect from STIs including HIV / AIDs.
EC pills DO NOT:
• Disrupt an existing pregnancy – they cannot cause an abortion
• Harm the baby if taken by mistake early in the pregnancy
• Cause birth defects if a pregnancy occurs after taking the pills
• Promote sexual risk-taking
• Make a woman infertile or cause delay in getting pregnant
• Build up in a woman’s body – the pills dissolve and the hormones leave the body within a few days
• Increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy


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