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Ack! Emergency contraception options

emergency options

While it's not right for everyone, emergency contraception can help women avoid pregnancy after unprotected sex. Find out more about these birth control options here.

Your question:

Help! Last night I had unprotected sex and I'm worried about pregnancy. What are my options for emergency contraception, and how does it work?

The expert answers:

emergency options

What an upsetting and frightening position you are in. This review will help you know your options for emergency contraception, and can help any woman get prepared for the same situation.

The morning after the unprotected intercourse, immediately call your physician so a prescription can be called to a pharmacy for emergency contraception (EC). It is ideal to begin the prescription ASAP -- don't hesitate a moment longer than necessary.

Your options

Your physician may choose one of four options. The two most popular are PREVEN and PLAN B. Plan B consists of 2 pills containing the hormone progestin and reduces your chance of pregnancy from 8% to 1%. You take 1 pill immediately, and that is followed by the second dose 12 hours later. Plan B is the most effective EC widely available to us.

Preven consists of 4 pills that contain both estrogen and progestin. Using this treatment reduces your chances of pregnancy from 8% to 2%. It is dosed by taking 2 pills at once, followed by 2 more pills 12 hours later.

Another option is the manipulation of a standard package of Birth Control Pills. In this scenario, the pills are taken in a specific combination to help provide emergency contraception. The effectiveness of this method is about the same as that of Preven. The last option for EC is the insertion of an IUD within 7 days of the unprotected sex. The IUD prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. The effectiveness in preventing an unwanted pregnancy goes from 8% to 1%. The cost of an IUD is about $400, and once inserted, should be left in place for at least one year.

What about STDs?

This quick guide to the four most common methods of EC does not touch on the prevention of STDs. If the unprotected intercourse did not occur with your regular, safe (already-been-tested) partner, then be certain to tell your physician so that arrangements can be made to prevent an STD.

In addition to practicing safe sex, in the future, it may be a good idea to have your physician write a prescription for a morning-after regimen to keep with you just in case of emergency. That way you won't be frantic trying to reach your physician to get the prescription. Of course, you will need to follow up with her quickly, but at least, you'll have some extra time on your side.

Dr Jane Forester
Family Physician

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