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What Is An Emergency Contraceptive Pill And How Does It Work?

In today’s world, where information is power, understanding the mechanics and implications of contraceptive choices is paramount. Among these choices, the use of emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) stands out as a crucial aspect of sexual & reproductive health.


This blog aims to demystify the ECP, explaining what it is, exploring its types, and the science behind it.



What Is An Emergency Contraceptive Pill?

An emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is a form of contraception or birth control, intended to prevent and unintended pregnancy. It is used after unprotected sex or contraceptive failure has occurred, for example, when contraception was not used, or the condom broke or slipped during sex. It is also known as the morning-after pill or plan B.


An ECP is most effective when taken as soon as possible within 72 or 120 hours after unprotected sex, depending on the type of ECP used. It is not meant for regular use, but only as a backup option for contraceptive emergencies, and it doesn't work if a pregnancy has already begun.


Emergency contraceptive pill or morning after pill or plan b


How Does An Emergency Contraceptive Pill Work?

An ECP works primarily by delaying or inhibiting ovulation (the phase of the female menstrual cycle when an egg (ovum) is released from one of the ovaries). This, in turn, prevents the male sperm from fertilizing the female egg to result in a pregnancy. The ECP does not work if a pregnancy has already occurred, and it does not induce an abortion.


How emergency contraceptive pill or morning after pill or plan b works


Types of Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs)

There are mainly two types of ECPs:


1. Levonorgestrel (LNG) containing pill

Levonorgestrel (LNG) is a synthetic progesterone (a female hormone). This single pill contains 1.5 mg of LNG and works primarily by preventing or postponing ovulation. It can help prevent an unintended pregnancy if taken as soon as possible up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex. It is an over-the-counter pill and can be purchased from a pharmacy without a doctor's prescription.

2. Ulipristal Acetate (UPA) containing pill

Ulipristal acetate (UPA) works by preventing the female hormone progesterone from having its normal effect, in order to prevent or delay ovulation, and to thin the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation (when a fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus to begin a pregnancy). It can help prevent an unintended pregnancy if taken as soon as possible up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex. It is used as a single pill, and can only be purchased with a doctor's prescription.


types of Emergency contraceptive pill or morning after pill or plan b


Conclusion

Understanding the intricacies of an emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is vital in making informed decisions regarding one's sexual & reproductive health. By exploring how it works, it's types, and the science behind it, individuals can better navigate their options following unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.



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

  • World Health Organization. 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.

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