Emergency Contraception

by Charlotte Wood
(last updated March 20, 2009)

Contraception didn't used to be as easy as it is now, and it used to be quite dangerous for both men and women. Fortunately, in today's day and age, contraception is easy to access and socially acceptable. It's almost socially expected—any who engage in sexual relations are, by default, assumed to be on some form of birth control. You should remember, however, that no birth control method is one hundred percent effective, and you always need to be prepared for the event that your birth control didn't pull through. You should be aware of emergency contraception methods so that you know what to do in the case of a birth control emergency.

Even though the birth control pill is mostly effective, it's not always effective; even though condoms are mostly effective, they're not always effective. A woman can ovulate while on the pill, a condom can break. Contraception is not a one percent success kind of science—emergency contraception is always good to keep as an available option in case you need it.

Emergency contraception is supposed to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse has already happened. Emergency contraception is often called "the morning after pill," "the day after pill," or the "morning after contraception." Essentially what emergency contraception does is chemically counteract any fertilization that might have taken place. You can use emergency contraception immediately after having sex or even up to five days after sex.

There are a couple of forms of emergency contraception: the aforementioned "morning after" pill or a copper intrauterine device. The morning after pill releases progestin (and sometimes progestin with estrogen) to fool the woman's body into thinking that it is already pregnant, thus counteracting any potentially real pregnancy. The copper intrauterine device can be inserted anytime into the woman's uterus up to five days after intercourse, and works in a similar way.

The thing to remember about emergency contraception is that you can't use that as your only form of birth control. If you're responsible, then you'll use a few different forms of contraception, which can always include emergency contraception. Don't rely on emergency contraception to completely protect you against unwanted pregnancy—you need to protect yourself in several different ways and emergency contraception can be only one of those ways.

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