What is the Emergency Contraceptive?

An emergency contraceptive pill (also known as “the morning after pill”) is recommended for the prevention of pregnancy within 72 hours of unprotected sex.

It contains levonorgestrel which is a progestogen – a substance that is also found in certain birth-control pills and mini-pills. The earlier the pill is taken after unprotected sex, the more effective it is.

The treatment consists of a SINGLE dose of two tablets, containing 0,75 milligrams of levonorgestrel. The tablets must be taken as a single dose, together, as soon as possible, but not later than 72 hours (three days) after having unprotected sex.

Depending on when you use the Emergency Contraceptive Pill during your monthly cycle, the pills will either stop the release of an egg or prevent fertilisation of an egg.

It can be used following any unprotected act of sexual intercourse, including:

  • when no contraceptive has been used
  • when a contraceptive method may have failed, including:
    • When a condom tore, slipped or were misused
    • When a diaphragm or cap dislodged, broke or were removed too early
    • Failed coitus interruptus
    • Miscalculation of periodic abstinence method
    • IUD expulsion
    • Missed regular oral contraceptive pills for four or more days in the cycle

No, using emergency contraceptive pills (also called “morning after pills” or “day after pills”) prevents pregnancy after sex. It does not cause an abortion.

The way emergency contraceptive pills work depends on where you are in your monthly cycle when you take them. It works primarily, or perhaps exclusively, by delaying or inhibiting ovulation (release of your egg).

Side effects of the emergency contraceptive pills typically last only a few days and may include:

  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Dizziness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Headache.
  • Breast tenderness.
  • Bleeding between periods or heavier menstrual bleeding.

No. It’s only good for that one instance of unprotected sex. In other words, if you take it and have unprotected sex again soon after taking it, the Emergency Contraceptive Pill may not protect you against pregnancy from this later incidence.

The Emergency Contraceptive Pill is highly effective if token properly. But it shouldn’t be used as a routine method of birth control.

The Emergency Contraceptive Pill will not work if you’re already pregnant. It is an emergency contraception which helps prevent pregnancy. Pregnancy should be excluded before you take it.

Small amounts of levonorgestrel may appear in breast milk. While not considered harmful, to reduce the amount that the baby might ingest, you can express milk immediately before taking the Emergency Contraceptive Pill or delay taking the medicine until immediately after feeding your baby. This approach must be weighed against the need to minimise delays in treatment.

It is most effective (Efficacy is higher) if used within 72 hours after unprotected sex.

Few women may be sick (vomit) after taking the emergency contraceptive pill. If you vomit within 2 hours of taking it, you will need to take another dose. So, go back to your pharmacist, doctor or family planning clinic for another dose.

Please see your doctor if:

  • your period is more than 5 days late, or unusually heavy or light;
  • you are still worried that you might be pregnant;
  • you have sudden or unusual pain in the lower abdomen and your period is late;
  • you have any concerns about your health or about the methods of contraception that is most suitable for you.

No, you have nothing to fear. Taking the Emergency Contraceptive Pill (a.k.a. ‘morning after pill’) will not make you less fertile in the long run. Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy after one act of unprotected sex.

To be on the safe side, a pregnancy test should be performed three to four weeks after taking the Emergency Contraceptive Pill. You should definitely take a pregnancy test if menstruation starts on time but appears abnormal – or if menstruation is more than five days delayed.

No prescription is needed for the Emergency Contraceptive Pill. You can buy it at the pharmacy (chemist). It’s available without a prescription from most pharmacies and clinics. A pharmacist may not sell the Emergency Contraceptive Pill to you if you are less than 18 years old, unless you are accompanied by either a parent or legal guardian.