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If you have had unprotected sex and are worried about getting pregnant, you have two choices of emergency contraception: taking the Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP), or so-called "morning after pill", or having a doctor insert an intrauterine device.
Emergency contraception is for women who want to prevent an unplanned pregnancy when no contraceptive has been used or when there was failure or incorrect use, such as:
Several drugs may be used as emergency contraceptive pills. They interfere with ovulation, among others. The ECP is not the same as an "abortion pill": It cannot stop a pregnancy that is already under way.
In Canada, you can get the ECP at a pharmacy without having to see a doctor first. Talk to your pharmacist; most will dispense them after consulting with you first.
ECPs should be administered as soon as possible, but it can be taken up to five days later and at any time during the menstrual cycle.
The ECP is usually administered in 1 or 2 doses, depending on the product used. Do not take any other contraceptive pills at the same time: additional pills won't further reduce your chances to be pregnant.
The intrauterine device can be useful as an emergency contraception method up to five days after unprotected sexual intercourse or within five days after the expected date of ovulation. IUDs have been found to be even more effective at reducing the risk of pregnancy than ECPs. The IUD must be inserted by a physician and can be removed immediately following the end of the next menstrual period or left in place as a form of contraception. IUDs, however, are not ideal for all women, especially not for teens.
The side effects vary depending on the drug used. The main ones are nausea, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue and dizziness, among others. If vomiting occurs, contact your healthcare provider immediately; you may need to take another dose.
After taking ECPs, your menstrual cycle may be early or late. If you are more than one week late, be sure to take a pregnancy test or consult your doctor to find out whether you are pregnant.
The effect of ECPs only lasts a few days. A method of contraception should be used for the rest of your menstrual cycle. Consult your healthcare professional who can provide information about contraceptive choices available to you.
For more information :
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Sex and U
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The patient information leaflets are provided by Vigilance Santé Inc. This content is for information purposes only and does not in any manner whatsoever replace the opinion or advice of your health care professional. Always consult a health care professional before making a decision about your medication or treatment.