Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception refers to a back-up method of birth control that can be used in the following situations:

  • You didn’t use any birth control
  • Your condom came off or broke
  • Your diaphragm/cervical cap moved out of proper position during vaginal intercourse
  • You missed one or more birth control pills
  • You were late starting your pill pack
  • You were late getting your Depo-Provera shot
  • You were sexually assaulted and/or raped
  • You didn’t have intercourse, but semen came near the vagina
  • You miscalculated your non-fertile days and didn’t use contraception

Emergency contraception works to prevent pregnancy after intercourse. The closer to the intercourse that emergency contraception is used, the more effective it will be in preventing pregnancy. Emergency contraception may be weight limits, talk to an HSHC doctor or a pharmacist about options. Emergency contraception does not provide protection from any STIs.

There are currently 2 types of contraception that can be used as emergency contraception:

  • Emergency Contraceptive Pills
  • Emergency IUD

 

EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS (ECP)

WHAT IS IT?

Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP) are most commonly referred to as the “morning-after pill”.

An example is Plan B®, which only has progestin (levonorgestrel). There are two versions: a single pill dose, and a two pill dose, where a person can take one pill immediately and then another 12 hours later, or can take both pills together.

There are currently three types of emergency contraceptive pills available in Canada:

  • Plan B, progestin-only method
  • Ella, ulipristal acetate method
  • Yuzpe (Ovral) method, containing both estrogen and progestin

Most people tolerate Plan B; however it can cause minor side effects in some users such as fatigue, breast tenderness, headache, and abdominal pain. People rarely feel nauseated after taking Plan B.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

ECP may work by one of several mechanisms:

  • It can keep the egg from leaving the ovary
  • It can keep the sperm from meeting the egg
  • It can keep the fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus

It does not cause disruption to the embryo once fertilization has occurred. In other words, ECP prevents pregnancy, but does not cause a miscarriage or abortion.

 

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF USING ECP?

ADVANTAGES:

  • only method of contraception used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex
  • available without a prescription from pharmacies

DISADVANTAGES:

  • does not work if already pregnant
  • has to be used within a limited time frame
  • cannot be used as a regular method of birth control
  • may cause nausea and/or vomiting
  • may cause changes in the next menstrual period
  • does not offer protection against STIs

 

EMERGENCY IUD

WHAT IS IT?

The emergency IUD is the same copper IUD that is used as a birth control method. The IUD can be used in an emergency to prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after the unprotected sex occurred.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The emergency IUD prevents a potential fertilized egg from implanting in the lining of the uterus.

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF USING AN EMERGENCY IUD?

ADVANTAGES:

  • it is more effective than emergency contraceptive pills (ECP)
  • the IUD can be kept in place and used as regular method of birth control

DISADVANTAGES:

  • may cause cramping and some spotting during and/or after insertion
  • requires an appointment with a doctor to have it inserted

 

HOW TO BOOK AND PREPARE FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT

BOOKING AN APPOINTMENT

You do not need an appointment to get ECP from us. A doctor or nurse must be the one to give it to you, so you may need to wait until a doctor is free, but we will always fit you in! Feel free to give us a call at  902.455.9656 ext. 0 if you have any questions. At HSHC, ECP costs $20. You don’t need a health card.  ECP is also available over the counter at any local pharmacy, usually for about $40.

If you are interested in an emergency IUD, please give us a call at  902.455.9656 ext. 0 and ask to speak to a nurse between the hours of 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.