What is Emergency Contraception?

By Medical Expert Team

Mar 27 , 2018 | 1 min read

Dr. Uma Vaidyanathan, Obstetrics And Gynaecology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh says, Emergency contraception refers to methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse. These are recommended for use within 5 days but are more effective the sooner they are used after the act of intercourse.

How does emergency contraception work?

Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by preventing or delaying ovulation. Contrary to popular misperception, they do not induce an abortion.

The copper-bearing intrauterine device (IUD) prevents fertilization by causing a chemical change in sperm and egg before they meet.

Can emergency contraception disrupt a pregnancy?

Emergency contraception cannot interrupt an established pregnancy or harm a developing embryo.

Who can use emergency contraception?

Any woman or girl of reproductive age may need emergency contraception to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. There are no absolute medical contraindications to the use of emergency contraception. There are no age limits for the use of emergency contraception.

When should one use emergency contraception?

  • Unprotected sex around the fertile period of the cycle
  •  Sexual assault when the woman was not protected by an effective contraceptive method.
  •  When there is a concern about possible contraceptive failure, from improper or incorrect use, for example- condom breakage, slippage, or incorrect use
  •   3 or more consecutively missed combined oral contraceptive pills

What are the methods of emergency contraception available in India?

  • Pills containing levonorgestrol
  • Combined oral contraceptive pills
  • Copper-bearing intrauterine devices

What are the common side effects associated with emergency contraceptive pills?

Side effects seen are nausea and vomiting, slight irregular vaginal bleeding, and fatigue.

If repeated doses are taken in the same cycle, heavy irregular menstrual bleeding may be seen for the next 2-3 cycles warranting cycle regulation under medical supervision.

Copper-bearing intrauterine devices

WHO recommends that a copper-bearing IUD, when used as an emergency contraceptive method, be inserted within 5 days of unprotected intercourse. When inserted within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse, a copper-bearing IUD is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. This is the most effective form of emergency contraception available. Once inserted, women can continue to use the IUD as an ongoing method of contraception as well.

A copper-bearing IUD should not be used as emergency contraception when a woman is already pregnant.


Written and Verified by:

Medical Expert Team