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Emergency Contraception

by Maxine
Posted August 19 2010 01:08pm
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It can take awhile for you and your partner to reconnect physically after the birth of your baby. When you do, it can be a wonderful and passionate experience, but often couples who are just getting past a pregnancy may forget to use any method of birth control when the moment finally arrives. If you’re not ready to have another baby so soon, what can you do?

“Don’t panic,” advises Karon Foster, a Registered Nurse and Parenting Expert. “There are emergency post-sex contraception options available if you’ve had unprotected sex.”

The emergency contraceptive pill (ECP), or morning-after pill, contains hormones that, if taken before ovulation has occurred, will prevent a fertilized egg from developing. They also may affect the lining of the uterus and prevent a fertilized egg from attaching. There are two types of pills available: the single dose pill and the 2-dose pill.

Another option is to have an IUD (Intrauterine Device) inserted into the uterus. The IUD prevents a fertilized egg from implanting into the lining of the uterus.

If you decide to use emergency contraception you will have 48-72 hours after unprotected sex to use an ECP, depending on the type of pill used. The sooner they are started the more effective they are.

An IUD needs to be inserted within 7 days of unprotected sex.

In Canada ECPs don’t require a prescription from a doctor. Emergency IUD’s require an appointment with a doctor or nurse practitioner in order for them to be inserted. In other countries, moms may need to see a health care provider, such as a doctor or nurse practitioner, in order to get a prescription.

In Ontario, ECPs are available from your pharmacy, from a family planning or sexual health clinic, or from your physician. IUDs are available from your doctor and from family planning and sexual health clinics.

As with any medication, you may experience some side effects from ECPs, including nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, dizziness, abdominal pain and headaches. It may also affect the timing of your next menstrual period—it may come a few days earlier or later.

The emergency IUD comes with its own set of side effects. They include:

  • IUD can be expelled.
  • May cause heavier menstrual periods and cramping.
  • Low risk of perforation of the uterine wall. Perforation is a rare event and may happen at the time of insertion. There is less risk if the health care provider is experienced in inserting IUDs.
  • Over time the IUD can become imbedded into the lining of the uterus. This can be painful and may require surgery to remove it.
  • Women who develop a sexually transmitted disease while they are using an IUD may be at greater risk of having problems getting pregnant in the future.

Emergency IUDs are not recommended if a woman has experienced any of the following:

  • Current or recent repeated pelvic infections
  • A recent abnormal PAP test
  • Severe infections of the cervix
  • Unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Genital cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Paralysis
  • Allergies to Copper
  • Anemia or history of severe menstrual cramping
  • Wilson’s disease

For more information on emergency contraception options, contact your health care provider or your local health unit.

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