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Emergency Contraceptive – How Do They Work?

November 30th, 2016

Emergency Contraceptive – How Do They Work?

Emergency Contraceptive – How Do They Work?

Morning – after pill or an emergency contraceptive are the pills to be taken right after an unprotected sexual intercourse to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. They are available as prescription as well as over the counter drugs. If taken properly, these pharmacological preparations can protect the woman from conceiving for straight five days!

Are you aware that:

  • One in nine women (or about 11% females in the reproductive aged group) ranging from 15 to 44 years have ever used emergency contraception in the United States.
  • Young women are more likely to use emergency contraception. According to a new study, about 23% females (20-24 years) have used emergency contraception in the past 6 months.
  • The two most common indications of emergency contraception use are unprotected sex and method failure.
  • 20% females who have ever used emergency contraception were either unmarried or were in unsteady relationships.

When Should You Consider Emergency Contraception?

There are different brands to choose form such as Next Choice, Ella and Plan B One-Step. These emergency contraceptive pills can be used in following situations:

  • If vaginal diaphragm got displaced during the sexual intercourseAre There Other Uses Of Contraceptive Pills? image
  • The condom slipped or broke during sex
  • If you engaged in sex without condom
  • During first three weeks of menstrual cycle, you had sex without protection and two or more birth control pills were missed
  • Delay of two or more days in starting new pack of contraceptive pills, patches and vaginal rings and had sex without using condoms
  • It’s been 13+ weeks since you had last shot of depo-provera and had unprotected intercourse

How Do Emergency Contraceptives Work?

These emergency contraceptives work by terminating ovulation and inhibiting the sperm motility. The biochemical alterations produced by emergency contraceptives can alter the uterus lining to prevent the attachment of a fertilized egg to the placenta.

Next Choice and Plan B One-Step are progestin- morning after pills. These pharmacological preparations contain synthetic form of hormone progesterone, called levonorgestrel. This synthetic hormone is being used for more than 35 years by women for contraception. These pills induce extreme hormonal explosion that distorts the chances of a possible pregnancy. These preparations are supposed to be taken as soon as possible with food. Next Choice should be taken twice with interval of 12 hours while plan B one-step is supposed to be taken only once.

The active ingredient in Ella is Ulipristal Acetate (UPA) that prevents or slows down the ovulation by disrupting the normal functioning of progesterone. Ella is found to be more effective than the other two brands, says a few researchers. But, it is available only as prescription drug. The effect of using this pill twice is not known yet. Therefore, it is recommended to use only one pill throughout the menstrual cycle. Women are persuaded to use non-hormonal birth control methods such as condoms after having this pill because they can reduce the affectivity of birth control pills.

If emergency contraceptives are taken after successful attachment of fertilized egg, the pregnancy won’t get terminated. These contraceptives do not cause miscarriages.


  • Trussell, J., & Cleland, K. (2015). Emergency contraceptive pill efficacy and BMI/body weight. Contraceptive technology. Available at: https://www. contraceptivetechnology. org/latebreakers/emergency-contraceptive-pill-efficacy-bmibody-weight/. Accessed July, 22.
  • Salcedo, J., Rodriguez, M. I., Curtis, K. M., & Kapp, N. (2013). When can a woman resume or initiate contraception after taking emergency contraceptive pills? A systematic review. Contraception, 87(5), 602-604.
  • Peck, R., Rella, W., Tudela, J., Aznar, J., & Mozzanega, B. (2016). Does levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive have a post-fertilization effect? A review of its mechanism of action. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(1), 35-51.

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