Emergency contraception is a form of contraception that can be taken by the woman after sex. Emergency contraception can not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Emergency contraception may prevent a pregnancy. The drugs that are used for emergency contraception are based on hormones.
Emergency contraception needs to be applied soon after the unprotected sex. If it is not applied within about 3 days (72 hours) after the event, it will no longer help to prevent pregnancy. The sooner the drug is taken after unprotected sex, the more effective it is.
The drugs work by either:
- Stopping or delaying ovulation, the ovaries from releasing an egg or ovum;
- Preventing sperm from fertilising any egg already released; or
- Stopping a fertilised egg from attaching itself to the lining of the womb.
It is estimated that these drugs may prevent 85% of expected pregnancies.
Emergency contraception is illegal in some countries and for some circumstances (for example, outside the context of rape). Often the drugs are available in pharmacies. In some countries, the affected person needs to talk to a healthcare professional (a doctor or a pharmacist). After this counseling, the drugs can be obtained.
- WHO Factsheet on Emergency contraception
- The Emergency Contraception Website (not-2-late.com) – by the Office of Population Research at Princeton University and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
- International Consortium for Emergency Contraception
- Go 2 EC – Emergency Contraception News
- The Morning-After Pill Conspiracy – A United States group whose goal is to have Plan B available over the counter (not just behind pharmacy counters) to women of all ages.
- Emergency contraception by the Adolescent Medecine Committee, Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS), Paediatrics and Child Health ACSA-CAAH