Morning-After Pills: What You Need To Know

 

Your condom broke. Or you forgot your dose of contraceptive pills. What now?

Previously, we’ve talked about period-delaying pills. But how about the morning-after pill? Do you know what exactly it is?

What is the Morning-After pill? How does it work?

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Otherwise known as “Plan B” or many other names, but ultimately, they are all a form of the Emergency Contraceptive Pill. It is a birth control that you consume after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

The morning-after pill should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. The earlier you take it, the more effective it is. The time frame is ideally within 48-72 hours of unprotected sex.

The pill is made up progestin – a hormone that can be found in most birth control pills. This hormone functions in 3 ways:

  1. Prevent ovulation – It does this by preventing the release of eggs from the ovaries. With no egg to fuse with the sperm, fertilization and hence pregnancy will not occur.
  2. Thickening a woman’s cervical mucus – This mucus blocks out the sperm and prevents it from fusing with an egg.
  3. Thinning the lining of the uterus – This way, even if an egg gets fertilized, it would not be able to be implanted on the uterus.

If taken correctly, the morning-after pill is estimated to reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 75-90%.

 

When or why should I take it?

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You should take the morning-after pill if any of these happens to you:

  • You or your partner forgot to use a condom during sexual intercourse
  • You or your partner forgot to use your usual contraceptive method (birth control pills etc)
  • Your partner did not pull-out in time (prior to ejaculation)
  • Condom broke during sexual intercourse
  • Condom slipped off during sexual intercourse
  • You were forced to have unprotected vaginal sexual intercourse

The Levonorgestrel-based pills come in a set of two, the first has to be taken as soon as possible, and the second, taken 12 hours after.

Contrary to its name, you don’t HAVE to take the pill the morning after unprotected sex. As mentioned above, it is best to take the pills within 48-72hours (2-3days) after unprotected sex. Although it may work for up to 120hours (5 days), it is highly recommended that you do not wait until then to take action.

 

Where do I get it? 

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Unfortunately, in Singapore, you will not be able to get these pills over-the-counter. However, you can easily get a prescription from any of the polyclinics or General Practitioners (GPs), before proceeding to purchase the pills. In Singapore, the fees can cost from $15 (polyclinic) to $100 (private clinics) including consultation charges.

It is important to note that the female in question has to consult the doctor herself – no one else can consult and get the prescription for her.

If you are really desperate, higher dosages of your regular birth control pills (made of estrogens / progesterone) do work as an alternative, although probably not as effective.

 

Are there any side effects?

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Taking the morning-after pill is the same as taking a high dose of birth control pills (hormonal oral contraceptives), and you might or might not suffer from some side effects.

Some of these may include, but not limited to:

  • Irregular bleeding (between periods)
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Nausea
  • Early / delayed period for one cycle after ingesting pills
  • Lighter or heavier flow during the period cycle after ingesting pills

If you experience from other serious side effects like bleeding lasting more than a week or severe lower abdominal pain, do consult a doctor about them.

Note: If you throw up within two hours of ingesting the pills, you may require another dose of the medication. Consult your doctor about it.

 

Can I continually use this?

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There has been no research (as of yet) to prove that there are any adverse long-term effects on your health or fertility due to continued frequent use of the morning-after pill, and you can even take the pills up to twice a month.

However, you should not use the emergency contraception pill as your primary method of contraception. As its name suggests, it is meant for emergencies, and due to the high levels of hormones in the pills, it is definitely not advisable to take the pills too frequently.

The pills also only offer a one-time protection from pregnancy. If you continue to have unprotected sexual intercourse in the days or weeks after taking the pills, you still run the risk of getting pregnant. It also does not protect you from sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).

Do bear in mind that this method does not 100% prevent you from getting pregnant! Take a pregnancy test or schedule an appointment with your doctor if you do not get your period within three weeks of taking the morning-after pills or you experience any other pregnancy symptoms.

Note that the emergency contraception pill is NOT to be confused with the ‘abortion pill’ (mifepristone / RU-486), it will not cause an abortion if you’re already pregnant!

Want a more consistent method of birth control? Check out Oral Contraceptive Pill or the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) if medication isn’t your thing!

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Good luck and I hope this article has helped you! Most importantly, if you face any of the above situations I’ve mentioned, DO NOT PANIC – Get your prescription for the pills and take them! You got this!

 

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Isadora Wong

An Explorer sustained by the sheer power of caffeine.
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