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How Effective Is An Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP)?

In recent years, emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) have emerged as a critical component of sexual & reproductive health strategies worldwide. Offering a solution to prevent an unintended pregnancy after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure has occurred, its effectiveness is a topic of keen interest and importance.


This blog delves into the efficacy of an ECP, underlining its role, usage, and considerations.



How Effective Is An Emergency Contraceptive Pill

An emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) functions primarily by stopping or delaying ovulation, and does not work if a pregnancy has already begun. The effectiveness of an ECP depends on how quickly it is taken after unprotected sex.


In India, the most commonly available ECP is the one with a single pill containing Levonorgestrel (LNG). When taken within 24 hours after unprotected sex, this ECP can reduce the risk of an unintended pregnancy by up to 95%. This effectiveness decreases to 85% when taken within 24-48 hours, and further drops to around 58% if taken within 49-72 hours.


effectiveness of levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill or morning after pill


Factors Affecting Effectiveness

The following factors can influence the effectiveness of an ECP:


1. Timing of Intake:

The sooner it is taken after unprotected sex, the more effective it is. The ECP does not work if a pregnancy has already begun.


2. Body Mass Index (BMI):

There is evidence suggesting that a higher BMI may reduce the pill's effectiveness.


3. Drug Interactions:

Certain medications and supplements can decrease the effectiveness of an ECP.


4. Diarrhea or vomiting:

Having diarrhea or vomiting within 2 hours after taking an ECP can affect its absorption.


If you are unsure whether an ECP is the right option for you, consult a doctor to discuss options.


factors affecting effectiveness of levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill or morning after pill


How To Use An Emergency Contraceptive Pill

Take the pill as soon as possible, within 72 hours (3 days) if using the pill containing Levonorgestrel (LNG), or 120 hours (5 days) if using the pill containing Ulipristal Acetate (UPA), after the first episode of unprotected sex in the current menstrual cycle. Do not delay taking the tablet, as it works better the sooner it is taken after unprotected sex. Swallow the tablet whole with water, before or after food.


If you are unsure of how to use it, or whether you should use it, consult a doctor immediately.


levonorgestrel and ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill or morning after pill


Conclusion

An emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is an important backup option for preventing an unintended pregnancy. Its effectiveness depends on its timely and proper administration. However, It should not be used as a regular contraceptive method, but reserved for emergencies only.

In India, the Levonorgestrel-containing ECP is available over-the-counter at pharmacies without a doctor's prescription, making it easily accessible. Nevertheless, awareness and knowledge about timely intake and effectiveness are crucial. Misconceptions and stigma around its usage still persist, underscoring the need for educational efforts.



Important

This blog, including its text, images, and infographics, are for educational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice. For personalized advice, always consult a doctor.



Further Reading

For more details on this or related topics, refer to the papers listed in references below, the FAQs on the ECP page, or other blogs on the Learn page of our website dulycare.in.



References

  • Contraception. Safety and effectiveness data for emergency contraceptive pills among women with obesity: a systematic review. 2016.

  • World Health Organization (WHO). Emergency contraception. 2021.

  • International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC) and International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). Emergency Contraceptive Pill: Medical and Service Delivery Guidance. 2018.

  • Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. Guidelines for Administration of Emergency Contraceptive Pills by Health Care Providers. 2008.

  • World Health Organization (WHO). Levonorgestrel 1.5mg tablets, Recommended Patient Information Leaflet. 2021.

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