Clearing The Air About The Morning After-Pill: It’s Contraception, Not Abortion!

Posted on July 30, 2015

By CREA and YKA: 

The morning after unprotected sex can be a worrying time for women, what with TV ads going on about ‘once is all it takes’. For accidental pregnancies, that is.

Image credit: Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan of Oh Joy Sex Toy

Despite the fact that each day, more than a 100 million Indian women consume an emergency contraceptive (EC) pill, most don’t know what it exactly is or how it really works.

In a country where sex itself is such a big deal, one can only imagine the hullabaloo around contraception, especially when discussed outside the context of marriage. Emergency contraceptive pills, or the morning after pills entered the Indian market in the early 2000s, became widely popular among the urban educated women in India as a way of avoiding unwanted pregnancies. At the same time it gained an infamous reputation, often being dubbed as the “abortion pill“.

But that’s where they went wrong. Taking an after-pill is nowhere close to getting an abortion. It is also not the same as an abortion pill. Not only is it just a handy emergency fix, it is in fact a good way to avoid a possibly unwanted situation for many women. The misconceptions associated with this tiny pill thus need setting right once and for all:

1. Emergency Contraceptive Pills Are The Same As Abortion Pills

FALSE. Contrary to what many people think, an EC pill in no way causes an abortion. It basically functions in two ways. If ovulation has not occurred, then the pill delays ovulation further so that the sperm cannot fuse with the egg to fertilise it. If ovulation has already occurred, then the pill prevents the fertilised egg (if formed) from sticking to the uterus wall. No foetus, therefore no abortion. If pregnancy has already taken place, then the pill will have no effect on the mother or the foetus, which is why it is advised that the pill be taken as soon as possible after intercourse, preferably within 72 hours (although, it can be effective up to 5 days).

2. Regular Use Of Emergency Contraceptives Leads To Infertility

Nope! Regular use of the EC pill does not cause infertility and has no negative effects in the long run. That being said, increased usage can possibly disrupt your normal menstrual cycle – it is, after all, delaying ovulation. It can also cause nausea, headaches, fatigue and dizziness as short term side-effects. You can use ECs more than once in a single cycle, though experts do not recommend that you do so. It is always advisable to use other forms of contraceptives, as much as possible.

3. The Morning After Pill Is Hard To Obtain And Requires A Prescription

Wrong. EC pills are easily available at local pharmacies, hospitals and health centres, and do not require any prescription for purchase. However, in case you have any doubts, or face any extreme reaction, it is always better to seek professional opinion.

4. The Morning After Pill Is The Only Emergency Contraceptive Available

Pills are not the only emergency contraceptive option available to you. You can also try copper bearing intrauterine devices (IUDs), which also prevent pregnancy. These devices can be inserted only by a qualified nurse or doctor, but are over 99% effective if inserted within 5 days of unprotected intercourse. Copper-bearing IUDs, once inserted, can prevent pregnancy for up to 10 years, eliminating the need to worry about taking an after-pill every time after unprotected sex.

5. Emergency Contraceptives Can Be Used As a Regular And Solitary Form Of Contraception

As mentioned earlier, morning after pills are only meant to be used as an emergency option, if your usual contraceptive fails or you have unprotected sex. While EC pills are highly effective in preventing pregnancies, they do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. A condom is the only way to avoid STDs.

If condom ads made you uncomfortable when they suddenly came up on TV during a family lunch, chances are that the after-pill ad gave those around you an even more stoic expression. Awkward silences notwithstanding, knowledge about contraception is important for one’s sexual health, and clichéd as it might be – knowledge is power, folks!

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