How Does Emergency Contraception Work ?

How Does Emergency Contraception Work ?

Emergency contraception is generally the ‘morning after pill’, which is a drug that prevents ovulation, or fertilization, or both. The emergency contraceptive pill may also inhibit implantation after fertilization.

An intrauterine device which is usually a method of primary contraception is sometimes used for emergency contraception as well.

As the name implies, these measures are intended for occasional use only as emergencies after unprotected sex. In the UK this pill is known as emergency hormonal contraception. Essentially these pills contain stronger doses of estrogen and progestin, the same hormones that form part of normal birth control pills or oral contraceptives. The higher dosage acts towards preventing an unwanted pregnancy. The ‘morning after’ is not strictly true as it is effective for upto 72 hours after intercourse.

There are two types -- progestin only or another known as the Yuzpe regimen, which is a combination of both. In both usages, the dosage is normally two pills each taken 12 hours apart though of late the former comes as a single dose. The progestin only is more effective and is the one commonly available in most countries.

The action of the emergency contraception pill is to give the body brief bursts of synthetic hormones at levels high enough to disrupt the normal hormonal pattern required for pregnancy. It works on the uterine lining and the ovaries inhibiting pregnancy.

Depending on the time of the menstrual cycle when this pill is used, it works in one of three ways:

  • It prevents ovulation or the egg leaving the ovary and moving into the fallopian tube.
  • It blocks the hormones necessary for the egg to be fertilized.
  • It might prevent the sperm from meeting the egg by affecting the lining of the uterus and interfering with sperm transport.

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How Does Emergency Contraception Work