contraception

Busting Myths of the morning-after pill

ISHMEET NAGPAL

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.

All you need to know about popping the pill

As with everything related to sex, contraception is something no one talks openly about. Contraception is something every woman has the right to know. However, there’s an ocean of misinformation that one has to swim through to finally arrive at the information that’s right for you.

Contraception offers a host of benefits to individuals, families and to the community as a whole:

  • It allows couples to plan when to make decisions on family planning including when to start, stop as well as how to space
  • It is important in reducing pregnancy-related health hazards, by preventing pregnancies in quick succession and deaths from unsafe abortions due to unwanted pregnancies
  • Like many other things, there are a various methods to contraception available out there such as:

    Barrier method: This method prevents the sperm from physically entering the uterus. They encompass a wide range of products from male and female condoms to sponges, cervical caps etc.

    Condoms are the only form of contraceptives that prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Not just HIV but also infections like chlamydia and HPV which could result in infertility and cervical cancer.
    A female condom is a soft plastic sheath that covers the vagina and partly the external genitalia. It prevents against both pregnancy and STDs. The biggest advantage it offers is that it allows woman power over her birth control. However, it is more expensive compared to the male condom and insertion will require some practice.

    Hormonal Methods: These are the most effective but among the most (erroneously) maligned methods of contraception. They are available in the form of pills, injections, inserts and intrauterine devices.
    The contraceptive pill is the more popular method. They decrease menstrual cramps and discomfort, reduce the risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer and blood loss. Fertility returns to pre-pill levels within 2-3 months of discontinuation. It may cause nausea in the first month of use in some women, which is transient. Depression is the other side effect, which is seen in a very small percentage of women.
    Intrauterine devices are another method. Also popularly known as copper-T. While copper IUDs may increase menstrual bleeding and result in more painful cramps, hormonal IUDs may reduce menstrual bleeding or stop menstruation completely. They however do not affect breastfeeding and can be inserted immediately after delivery or after an abortion. Once removed, even after long-term use, fertility returns to normal immediately.

    Emergency contraception: Contrary to popular belief, these are not abortion pills. These pills should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse. Nausea, breast tenderness, delayed menstruation, lower abdominal ache, headache, vomiting and irregular menstruation are just some of the side effects of the pill. Its long time usage can lead to severe menstrual problems or even ovarian damage. It’s not the most effective or the most reliable method of birth control and should be used in times of genuine emergencies like contraceptive failure (condom tearing).

    While this guide is a starter, it is best to discuss contraception methods with your healthcare provider and opt for one that both you and your partner are comfortable with.

    The female condom demystified.

    The market is flooded with varied contraceptive methods! You would surely be baffled, trying to understand what’s best for you and your partner for the best sexual experience. Women finally have the power to be in charge of their bodies; men too are delighted for being liberated from wearing condoms all the time. Thanks to the female condom!

    What is a female condom?

    A female condom, is a barrier contraceptive device, which means that it acts as a “physical barrier”, preventing the transfer of semen to the vagina. It is shaped like a pouch; almost like a thin bag with one end of the condom closed. There are elastic rings at both the ends, which help in placing the condom firmly in the vagina. The inside of the female condom is pre-lubricated with a lubricant, making it smooth for use.

    How to use a female condom?

    Be sure to insert a female condom correctly into the vagina! Women are to simply push the closed end of the condom inside the vagina before having sex, and pull it out and discard it after the act. You can watch videos on Youtube for a visual demo. We bet you have heard of the adage, practice makes a (wo)man perfect! So try your hand at perfecting this art!

    Is a female condom for me?

    Woman contraceptives may not be so popular, sometimes due to stigma attached to women and sex-talk! Hence you may feel that you need not know or use a contraceptive for your body. Many girls have this conception that it is enough for your man to know about (and use) a contraceptive. Where did all the girl power go! With a female condom, you have the power to insist on your “right to safe sex”. So learn and master its use and liberate yourself sexually!

    A female condom is “Power to a woman, it minimizes chances of unintentional pregnancy as well as prevents sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Flexible applications are a boon, it can be used for both vaginal and anal intercourse (though not officially approved for anal intercourse). It is great from a pleasure perspective, the female condom is made of polyurethane (plastic) which is generally thinner. Thinner walls means more pleasure! Are you driven by stimulation of the clitoris? Then this one’s for you- outer ring of the female condom can intensely stimulate the clitoris! It comes handy for certain situations such as when the woman is not easily lubricated (for example after menopause). You can line it with a lubricant and there you go on a sensual ride! Another use is for sex during periods, since it traps the blood and prevents messiness!

    Caveat!

    However, it is important to be careful while using a female condom. It’s a foreign body and may cause irritation in the penis, vulva/ vagina /anus. Be careful to monitor any unusual reaction of your body.

    Moreover, there is a chance the condom may rip or tear during the sexual intercourse. Being made of plastic, couples have reported it making noise during sex. Women may find it difficult to insert the condom and to remove it.

    Female condoms are not available easily, but you can try ordering from Amazon.

    Though female condoms are not a popular phenomenon,  it can fuel sexual empowerment for women, by doing away with dependence on the partner for safe sex.