Emergency Contraception

Before describing the types of emergency contraception, it is important to understand what happens inside a women’s body when a pregnancy begins.

Some believe that pregnancy does not begin until a fertilized egg implants in the womb; however the scientific reality is that the moment the sperm and egg unite in the fallopian tube and fertilization occurs the genetic make-up of a baby is established, including the hair and eye color and the gender (1).

That’s why many believe that conception is the starting point of a new human life. It takes this new life approximately five to seven days to reach the uterus where it will implant in the plush lining and continue to grow and develop. All forms of emergency contraception have the potential to alter the uterine lining enough to prevent the new life from implanting. This is not a contraceptive effect, but abortifacient, causing and early abortion

Common Forms of Emergency Contraception

Morning-After Pill

Plan B One-Step (morning after pill) is intended to prevent pregnancy after known or suspected contraceptive failure, unprotected intercourse or forced sex. It contains large amounts of levonorgestrel, a progestin hormone found in some birth control pills. It may work by preventing the egg and sperm from meeting by delaying ovulation; it won’t disrupt an implanted pregnancy, but may prevent a newly formed life from implanting in the uterus (2).

Plan B One-Step consists of one pill taken within 72 hours of sex (2).

Side effects may include changes in periods, nausea, lower abdominal pain, fatigue, headaches and dizziness. If your period is more than a week late, you may be pregnant from a prior sexual encounter. Plan B One-Step should not be taken during pregnancy nor used as a routine form of birth control.(2)

There is evidence that Plan B One-Step use may increase the risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, a potentially life threatening condition.(2) Women who have severe abdominal pain may have an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, and should get immediate medical help.

There are no long-term studies on the safety of Plan B One-Step in women under 17, after repeated use or the effects on future fertility.(2)

Ella

This method uses birth control pills (containing both estrogen and progestin hormones) taken in much higher concentrations than found in a normal daily dose. Typical side effects include nausea, vomiting, lower abdominal pain and breast tenderness. Adverse effects associated with methods using combination pills include blood clots, stroke and heart attack.(3)

(1) Mayo Clinic. Week three: fertilization. Available at www.mayoclinic.com/health/prenatal-care/PR00112. Accessed March 7, 2011

(2) Plan B One-Step Prescribing information . Mechanics of action. Available at www.planbonestep.com/pdf/planbonestepfullproductinformation.pdf. Accessed February 14,2011

(3) CareNet. Before You Decide 2011. Page 11

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Things to Consider?

  • Emergency contraception is not effective if a woman is already pregnant.
  • Plan B does not protect against HIV infection (AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • The most common side effects in the Plan B clinical trial were nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, and menstrual changes.(2)
  • The manufacturer warns that Plan B is not recommended for routine use as a contraceptive.(2)

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