Emergency contraception is a type of birth control used by women after an unprotected sex. It is also used when usual birth control methods fail, like rupturing of condoms and missing out on regular contraceptive pills. They are also called “morning-after pills”. They primarily work by either delaying ovulation or blocking the hormones that promote conception.
Types Of Emergency Contraceptives
The effectiveness of emergency contraceptives depends on the time after intercourse at which the pill is consumed. Plan-B one-step emergency contraception works by delaying the eggs from ovulating, or by stopping fertilization, or by avoiding implantation after fertilization. It is most effective when taken immediately, not exceeding 72 hours after having unprotected sex.
Ulipristal is a non-hormonal drug which works by blocking the hormones necessary for conception. This should be taken within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse.
Apart from pills, Intrauterine Device (IUD) is also available, insertion of which prevents implantation of fertilized egg for 5 to 7 days after unprotected sex.
Though safe, they are not recommended for routine usage due to various side effects. Below are the reasons why emergency contraceptives are bad for you.
Side-effects Of Emergency Contraceptives
1. Not 100% Effective
Studies showed that out of 100 women, approximately 10 women conceived even after taking an emergency contraceptive pill. This indicates that they are not 100% effective. The effectiveness also depends on the type of emergency contraceptive used. An IUD is the most effective of all with 99% success rate. Plan-B has effectiveness rate ranging from anywhere between 52% to 100%. And, Ulipristal has effectiveness rate ranging from 62% to 85%.
Also, if the woman vomited within 2 to 3 hours of taking a pill, not taking another pill could lead to conception if ovulation has happened.
2. Do Not Protect You From STDs
Unlike male and female condoms, emergency contraceptives do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and HPV. Therefore, if you are not sure about the sexual health of your partner, it is best to avoid emergency contraception.
3. Cause Vaginal Bleeding
Vaginal bleeding is one of the common side effects of popping an emergency contraceptive pill. Bleeding should not ideally last longer than 2 to 3 days. However, if it continues even after 3 days, it is an indication of a severe health issue which requires immediate medical attention.
4. Cause Nausea And Headache
Some women have nausea and headache after taking a pill. In worst cases it could also lead to vomiting, causing dehydration. Though these are general side-effects and need not be worried about much, having these symptoms for a long time could interfere with the normal routine. It is best to consult your doctor if the symptoms pertain after 2 days.
5. Cause Abdominal Pain And Fatigue
Abdominal pain is one of the most common issues women face after taking emergency contraceptives. The stomach might feel tender and painful to touch. In some cases it could lead to either dehydration or constipation, leaving you fatigued. It is best to see the doctor if you feel constantly lethargic and are unable to eat due to increasing pain.
6. Interfere With Normal Menstrual Cycle
Research indicates that women who consumed emergency contraceptive pill got their cycles 3–4 days either before or after the actual date. About 13–14% of women had extremely painful menstruation. It is suggested to take a pregnancy test if periods are delayed by a week or more.
7. Certain Drugs Reduce Their Effectiveness
If you are taking barbiturates, these could impact the effectiveness of emergency contraceptives to a large extent. Drugs that cure epilepsy, tuberculosis, fungal infections, and HIV also affect the functioning of these pills. It is best to take an advice from your doctor before opting them. A double dose might sometimes be prescribed depending on the dosage of the drug you are taking.
8. Weight Impacts Their Effectiveness
Studies show that emergency contraceptives are less effective in obese women, but do not pose any harm. Ulipristal is way less effective if the Body Mass Index (BMI) is more than 35. The effectiveness of plan-B reduces if your BMI is more than 25, and it might not work at all if the BMI is greater than 30.
They are not prescribed during pregnancy, as they do not induce termination. However, if consumed during pregnancy, are not risky to either the fetus or the mother.
WHO recommends the usage of these pills to girls and women who are at a risk of unintended pregnancy, after unprotected sex. Plan-B step-one is usually sold as over-the-counter drug and does not need a prescription. Ulipristal and IUDs need a prescription. There are several natural alternatives available with varying effectiveness, which can be helpful.