Emergency Contraception – Imagine This

Imagine this.
Sarah is alone with a guy she really likes. She feels very unsure about having sex with him but it’s hard to put it into words. So she just tells him she doesn’t want to risk getting pregnant. He says it’s ok because she can get emergency contraception from the chemist the next day. Sarah feels trapped into going ahead and having sex.

Imagine this.
Kelly has got into a pattern of often sleeping with different guys, mainly because she feels lonely and unhappy about things in her life and she feels the need to get close to someone. She worries about getting pregnant so she has used emergency contraception quite a few times. Sometimes Kelly wonders how it might be affecting her body long term.

Imagine this.
Krista took emergency contraception after sleeping with her boyfriend but she is pregnant anyway. Now she is scared the drugs she took have damaged her baby. Krista doesn’t want to have an abortion but she feels pressured into it.

Imagine this.
Tori has had an ectopic pregnancy – a pregnancy that has developed in the fallopian tube – because of using emergency contraception. The loss of her fallopian tube means her chances of ever having a baby are now much less.

Click for more information about emergency contraception

It’s a drug similar to, but much stronger than, the contraceptive pill. It is designed to prevent or interrupt a pregnancy if taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected sexual intercourse, preferably within 24 hours following unprotected sex. It is available from a chemist without a doctor’s prescription .

The dosage is two tablets given 12 hours apart.

It is thought to work in a number of different ways –

  • altering the cervical mucous making it more difficult for sperm to reach the ovum
  • Preventing or delaying ovulation
  • Preventing a fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus.
  • Success rate is unknown as it is too early to know if a girl is pregnant or not.

As with the Pill, emergency contraception should not be administered to anyone with a history of blood clots, anemia, high blood fat levels, breast cancer, uterine cancer, liver disease, migraines, epilepsy, diabetes. Side effects include

  • Nausea in about 25% of women
  • Vomiting occurs in 5%
  • Disturbed menstrual pattern
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Over-the-counter purchase at the chemist reduces the opportunity for private discussion about the side effects and a girl’s medical history. It’s difficult to have a discussion like that in a crowded shop. It’s likely important health information will be overlooked.

A girl may not even be aware of her own conflicting health issues, such as anemia.

A girl’s anxiety is not reduced as she must still wait until a pregnancy test can be done.

The side effects of the drug can mimic symptoms of pregnancy, adding to anxiety.

If the girl discovers she is pregnant after using emergency contraception she may fear damage to the embryo and feel pressured into an abortion decision.

Regular use of emergency contraception may increase health risks including ectopic pregnancy (development of pregnancy in fallopian tube instead of uterus).

“I can’t be pregnant!”

Emergency contraception may seem like the answer in an emergency, but there are definitely things each girl in this situation needs to think about –

  • she may not even be pregnant but once she takes emergency contraception she will never know
  • no one can make a good decision about something as important as ending their pregnancy when they are in a panic
  • what does she need to know (and tell) about her health that could be affected by using emergency contraception – is it safe for her to take it?
  • the side effects and warnings
  • how using emergency contraception may affect her future fertility
  • Some people are being pressured into unwanted sex by their partner because emergency contraception is easily available.

Talk about it – if you are worried about possible pregnancy, or anxious about having taken emergency contraception, or concerned about your relationships or decisions, reach out for confidential help from a counsellor at Open Doors using the Contact Us form.