Emergency contraception refers to various methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse. They may be effective up to 5 days after the act of intercourse but are recommended to be taken as soon as possible.
How does it work?
Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by preventing or delaying the release of an egg into the uterus (ovulation). On the other hand, a copper intrauterine device (IUD) prevents the fertilisation of the egg.
Emergency contraception does not cause abortion.
Who is it for and when can you use it?
Emergency contraception can be used by any woman or girl of reproductive age.
They can be used in many types of situations, which include:
- After a sexual assault
- After an act of intercourse where no contraception has been used
- When a condom has slipped off or broken during sexual intercourse
- Missed oral contraceptive pill
Types of emergency contraception
The most common type of emergency contraception on the market is levonorgestrel-containing pills (Plan B) or combined oral contraceptive pills which contain both oestrogen and progesterone. These are most effective when taken within three days of unprotected sex. There are also pills containing ulipristal acetate (e.g., Ella ©). These can be taken up to five days after sexual intercourse. Side effects of the pills include cramping, mood swings, nausea, and vomiting. These pills are available through prescription when you visit a doctor. The cost ranges from S$30-50 a pill.
You may also get the copper IUD. This is the most effective form of emergency contraception. Copper IUDs should be inserted within five days of the act of intercourse. They prevent the sperm from fertilising the egg. Side effects may include heavier and longer bleeding during your periods, which usually occur during the first six months of insertion. The cost of a copper IUD ranges from S$150-500, but they can be shifted to regular contraception and last for at least 5 years.
Adolescent pregnancy, or teenage pregnancy, refers to pregnancies among women under the age of 19. It is a common health issue worldwide and tends to disproportionately affect marginalised populations. Factors such as socioeconomic status, culture, and education contribute to the problem.
There are also multiple social and economic issues on top of the existing health problems posed by teenage pregnancies. For example, younger women tend to experience complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Furthermore, abortions are common as they are highly associated with unwanted pregnancies. Adolescent pregnancies are stigmatised, which may lead to rejection from their communities. These mothers are also more likely to drop out of school early, which may affect the chances of getting a good job.
Many unwanted teenage pregnancies may be avoided with the awareness of contraception. Check out Ferne Health’s blog for more information on contraception.
If you have been sexually assaulted, contact the police immediately. Further tests will have to be taken to ensure that you have not had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and emergency contraception would be given to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
The symptoms of a pregnancy vary according to person. The first most common sign of a pregnancy is a missed period. An average menstrual cycle lasts between 21 to 40 days. If you have missed a period, you may want to consider getting a simple pregnancy test. Other symptoms include:
● Nausea, vomiting (morning sickness)
● Change in appetite or aversion to certain food
● Giddiness or tiredness
● Weight gain
● Bigger stomach
● Sore breasts
● Frequent urination
If you are pregnant, you should discuss with your partner as well as your support network including close family and friends about plans for the future. This may include raising a child together with your partner, alone, or with the support of family and friends, giving the baby up for adoption, and abortion. If you would like to consider an abortion, please note that the laws vary worldwide. In Singapore, termination of pregnancy is allowed up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. In other countries, abortion is illegal or only prohibited to save a woman's life.
For more information, please visit: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9709-pregnancy-am-i-pregnant, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/emergency-contraception