Tip of the week: Contraception 911

Despite numerous contraceptive options, sometimes accidents happen. Luckily, there is something you can do to help prevent pregnancy. Emergency contraception pills (ECP or morning-after pill) can help reduce the risk of pregnancy up to 75 percent - if you act within 72 hours after having unprotected sex. Remember, emergency contraception is for emergencies only. You should not use ECP as a regular method of birth control. Emergency contraception does not protect against STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) before or after its use. If you find yourself continuing a pattern of unprotected sex, you should speak with a healthcare professional on campus or back home as soon as possible about your contraceptive and STI prevention options.

What is ECP?

Emergency contraception pills (ECP) are a contraception used after sexual intercourse but before pregnancy. It involves the ingestion of oral contraceptives (OCP) to prevent pregnancy after unprotected or incompletely protected intercourse.

What is meant by "incompletely protected" intercourse?

Commonly experienced examples of contraceptive method failure include condom slippage or breakage, or multiple missed pills in a cycle of pill use. There is nothing in the literature regarding use of ECP when only one OCP is missed, nor is there anything regarding use of ECP in women who are on OCP and antibiotics concurrently and are not using a barrier method.

How does ECP work to potentially prevent pregnancy?

Within a given menstrual cycle, if ECP is used before ovulation, there is a disruption in the maturation of the follicle, and consequently a delay or inhibition of ovulation. If ovulation has already occurred in the cycle, it is believed that ECP makes the uterine lining "inhospitable," prohibiting implantation.

Can ECP cause an abortion?

ECP use will not disrupt an established pregnancy. There are many cases of women who are exposed to exogenous (from outside the body) hormones early in pregnancy without adverse outcomes.

Is it safe?

ECP is extremely safe. It can be used as often as is deemed appropriate, based on the scenario, including multiple use within the same menstrual cycle (obviously, this is not ideal, in terms of a contraception plan). Hormones taken in specific doses are safe to use as emergency contraception. There is no evidence that ECP would be harmful to women with a history of stroke or blood clots due to the short-term nature of the regimen and the low hormone content. There are very few contraindications to ECP use: women who are already pregnant or who have unexplained vaginal bleeding should not use ECP.

What are the side

effects of ECP use?

The most common side effects of ECP use are nausea and vomiting. These side effects are temporary.

ECP is available at Health Services on campus free of charge. ECP is also now available at local pharmacies without a prescription (if you are 18 years of age and above).

(This column is courtesy of the Lauderdale Center for Student Health and Counseling. YAWA is an anonymous, online Q & A Service on the Health & Counseling Web site. If you have a question for YAWA, log onto go.geneseo.edu/yawa).