I had a roommate in college who was popping emergency pills about thrice a month. I really did not want to interfere but being the daughter of a gynaecologist, I was concerned about her health. So I casually asked her about it, to which her response was, “It’s convenient coz we don’t have sex that often”. For her it was a planned method of birth control and luckily did not seem to show many side effects. However, we were inspired to, what is now referred to as, ‘Google it all’, and what we found, had me dragging her for birth control counseling the next day.
So before we tackle myths surrounding the ‘magic pill’, let me reiterate: HAVE SAFE SEX! DO NOT put yourself at risk! However, if you do make a mistake, before you run to fetch the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP), let’s get a few facts straight!
MYTH NO. 1: The ECP will cause an ABORTION
Please remember that the pill will only inhibit fertilisation or implantation, and will not abort an existing pregnancy, which is why it is recommended that the pill be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. If you suspect you are pregnant, please visit a gynaecologist.
MYTH NO. 2: ECPs can be used as BIRTH CONTROL PILLS
Even though most ECPs contain the same hormones that regular birth control pills contain, ECPs may work by either stopping the release of an egg, stopping the sperm from fertilizing the egg, or preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
On the other hand, Birth Control Pills prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation. When the egg is not released, there is nothing to be fertilized by the sperm, and there will be no pregnancy.
ECPs CONTAIN HIGHER DOSES OF HORMONES THAN NORMAL CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS.THE HIGHER DOSE CAN DISTURB YOUR MENSTRUAL CYCLE AND CAN CAUSE IRREGULAR BLEEDING.
The operative word in ECPs is EMERGENCY. They are not for regular use.
MYTH NO. 3: I need a MEDICAL PRESCRIPTION to buy ECPs
ECPs are available over the counter and you do not need to consult a doctor or get a prescription to obtain them. However, it is advisable to ask your regular gynaecologist or General practitioner to recommend some for future use when required.
MYTH NO. 4: Taking the pill too often will make me INFERTILE
ECPs are not meant for regular use, so yes using them too often does lead to side effects like a disturbed menstrual cycle, but no, they will not make you infertile. They can even be used more than once in a single month (period cycle), even though this is not recommended because of the side effects.
MYTH NO. 5: ECPs have PERMANENT side effects
The emergency pills do not appear to have any permanent or long-term effects, however, short-term side effects are a very real possibility. The most common among them is nausea. If you do happen to vomit within 2 hours of taking an ECP, take another dose ASAP.
MYTH NO. 6: ECP is my ONLY OPTION after unprotected sex
There is also the option of having an emergency Intrauterine device (IUD) inserted into your uterus, and no, it is not as scary as it sounds. It is a small plastic and copper device that can be fitted into your uterus up to five days after unprotected sex. You can even choose to keep the IUD for up to five or 10 years. The IUD must be inserted by a licensed gynaecologist.
Take charge of your health and your body, and never hesitate to consult a doctor. Modern medicine and modern society are all on your side. So are we!
With inputs from Dr. Manjit Kaur, MBBS, a practicing Gynaecologist since more than 30 years in Ludhiana, Punjab.