By Dr. Prathima Reddy
MBBS, MRCOG (London), FRCOG (London), FACOG (USA), Director – Fortis La Femme, Bangalore, Chairperson – Medical Council Committee – Fortis La Femme, Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Contraceptives have been in use for thousands of years. A cave painting in France thought to be 15,000 years old shows what is possibly the first illustration of a man wearing a condom. In ancient Egypt around 1500 BC, women would mix honey, sodium carbonate and crocodile dung into a pessary and insert it into their vaginas before sex. In ancient China, concubines used a drink of lead and mercury in order to prevent pregnancy. Over the centuries contraception has evolved into what is available today.
What is Emergency Contraception (EC)?
Emergency Contraception also called Post Coital Contraception or Morning After Pill is a form of birth control method that can be used by women who have had unprotected intercourse or have used a birth control method that may have failed (eg. “burst”condom, missed pills) or when forced intercourse has occurred.
Types of Emergency Contraception
Today the most commonly used Emergency Contraceptive methods are: the Levonorgestrel (LNG) pill, Copper bearing intrauterine device (Cu-IUD) and Ulipristal acetate (UPA).
In India the LNG pill (eg, I pill) and the Cu IUD (commonly known as “Loop” or “Cu – T”) are available. Ulipristal is not available for emergency contraception.
Given below are a few myths associated with Emergency Contraceptive Pill:
Myth: The LNG pill is 100% effective
Fact: Unfortunately, not. LNG is about 97 – 98% effective
Myth: LNG pill needs a doctor’s prescription
Fact: Not at all, it can be bought over the counter at any pharmacy. However, a Cu – IUD needs to be inserted by a doctor
Myth: I have to take it immediately after unprotected intercourse for it to be effective
Fact: The sooner you take it, the more effective it is. However, LNG pill can be taken up to 72 hours, the Cu – IUD can be inserted up to 5 days and the UPA can be taken up to 120 hours
Myth: One pill will protect me for the rest of the month
Fact: No. Separate acts of intercourse will need separate doses of LNG unless they occur within 12 hours of the first intercourse. However the Cu – IUD needs to be inserted only once.
Myth: It can be used as a regular method of contraception
Fact: No, alternate forms of contraception have to be used regularly.
Myth: It protects against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STIs)
Fact: Wrong. It only prevents a pregnancy, not an infection. Barrier contraception (condom, female condom) protects against STIs
Myth: If I fall pregnant the baby will be abnormal
Fact: Certainly not. None of the EC methods have any effect on the pregnancy
Myth: Future fertility is at risk
Fact: Again, not true, EC does not affect the fertility of a woman
Myth: If I have Migraine, History of clots in the legs or brain, Liver disease or am breastfeeding, I cannot take the LNG pill
Fact: There are no medical contra indications to taking the LNG pill