What You Need To Know About Emergency Contraception Pills

You have probably heard about emergency contraception pills (or the “morning after pill”), but do you have a clear understanding of how they work? Educating yourself now, rather than in a desperate moment, can help you make a more informed decision about taking these pills.


Before we explain what emergency contraception pills are, it is important to understand what they are not. They are not birth control pills, and they do not cause an abortion. This pill is activated before an actual pregnancy can occur.


Emergency contraception pills are designed for use after unprotected sex – but time is of the essence. Fertilization, the union of an egg and a sperm, occurs in the fallopian tube. During the next few days the fused egg and sperm move through the fallopian tube to the lining of the uterus where it implants as a cluster of cells that will soon become the fetus and placenta. If the process of fertilization has progressed to this point, emergency contraception pills will not work. Therefore, the sooner you take this pill after unprotected sex, the better your chance of success.


It is important to read the instructions for the specific emergency contraception pill you are taking, as they each have different guidelines and timeframes for use.  In general, emergency contraception pill taken within the first 24 hours have about a 95% success rate.


What exactly does the emergency contraception pill do after you ingest it? Most of these pills will either prevent or delay ovulation, disrupt the fertilization of the egg or prohibit the egg from implantation – it all depends on where you are in your current cycle. Women should be aware of side effects such as nausea, fatigue, dizziness, diarrhea, cramping and abnormal menstrual bleeding.


If you are unsure about emergency contraception pills or have concerns about their safety, always give us a call at North Pointe OB/GYN Associates. We can explain the risks and benefits more carefully and determine if it is the best choice for your body. There are certain BMI ranges that make emergency contraception pills less ideal as well as specific medications that reduce their effectiveness.


Never mistake emergency contraception pills as a means for regular birth control. These pills do not offer any protection from STD’s and should be viewed as a backup plan for contraception. As with any method of pregnancy prevention, it is a personal choice on whether or not to use it.

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