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When Do I Need to Use Emergency Contraceptives?

Emergency contraception is a safe and effective option if you suspect your regular birth control method has failed in some way. There may come a time when you forget to take your daily dose of contraceptive or a barrier method (such as a condom) fails, increasing your pregnancy risk. Emergency contraceptives, sometimes called morning-after pills, are designed to protect against pregnancy no matter the reason.

Emergency contraception may be beneficial if you missed your birth control pill, but it’s a good idea to speak to a medical professional to assess whether you need it. Contact your Nurx™ medical provider to discuss any concerns you may have over missed pills so we can help you decide if emergency contraception is right for you.

Condom or Barrier Failure

While condoms are effective at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, they can fail on occasion. Most of these failures are due to the condom breaking, slipping, or falling off. When this happens, sperm can potentially make its way to your uterus, increasing your pregnancy risk. If you suspect a condom has failed in any way, you can take emergency contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.

Missed Dose of Oral Combination Pills

Combination birth control is one of the most effective ways to prevent ovulation and pregnancy. Oral combination birth control pills contain various levels of hormones. Taking the pill each day at the same time is imperative for the medication to be most effective. It’s easy to get distracted when away from home or on vacation and forget to follow your precise regimen. If you’ve missed taking your pill for more than 48 hours (two days in a row), the hormone levels in your system will decrease, and you run the risk of getting pregnant.

If you have unprotected sex after missing your daily pill, emergency contraception can help ensure you don’t get pregnant. This applies to all combination contraceptives, including the pill, patch, and ring.

Missed or Late Dose of Progestin-Only Mini Pill

While the progestin-only mini pill is an effective method of birth control, missing a dose or taking a dose late can reduce its effectiveness. Also, if you are sick and experience vomiting, your body might not receive the entire hormone dose. If you are more than three hours late taking your mini pill or if you’ve experienced nausea and vomiting, emergency contraception is a viable option to prevent pregnancy.

Your Options

When it comes to emergency contraception, you have options. There are two primary oral methods of emergency contraception, both of which are available through Nurx. Although each option requires dosing within a specific period, its best to use emergency contraception as soon as you think you’ve had unprotected sex. Your insurance might cover part or all of the medication’s cost, but you can affordably get it from Nurx regardless of whether you have insurance.

  • Single-dose morning-after pill (Plan B One-StepMy Way, Next Choice One Dose): These emergency contraceptives contain levonorgestrel, a common ingredient found in combination birth control. Levonorgestrel is a form of the female hormone progestin and works by stopping ovulation. Plan B and its equivalents are available over the counter at most drug or grocery stores or delivered to you through Nurx. You can take emergency contraceptives containing levonorgestrel up to 72 hours after having unprotected sex, but they’re most effective when taken right away.
  • Ella: Ella is a prescription nonhormonal emergency contraceptive that gives you a longer window in which to take the medication. You can take Ella within 120 hours (five days) of having sex, and it’s just as effective whether you take it on Day 1 or Day 5. Ella might not work as well as Plan B for women who weigh more than 165 pounds.
  • Copper intrauterine device (IUD): The copper IUD is an emergency contraception method that requires having a medical professional insert the device into your uterus within five days of having unprotected sex to be effective. Although the copper IUD is effective at preventing pregnancy and as emergency contraception, it isn’t as convenient or readily available as one-dose oral methods.

What to Expect

Whichever emergency contraception method you choose, follow all package directions or instructions from your Nurx medical provider. Remember that over-the-counter methods are most effective when taken as soon as possible and within three days of having sex, while prescription Ella lengthens that window to five days.

Women should take certain precautions when using emergency contraception and oral contraceptives and be aware of side effects that might accompany these medications:

  • Take your pill with plenty of water to ensure you swallow it completely.
  • Take your pill with food to avoid nausea or vomiting.
  • Know when and how to restart your regular method of birth control.
  • Use backup birth control (diaphragms, cervical caps, spermicide, condoms) if needed.
  • Be aware of potential changes to your next period.
  • Stay alert for signs of pregnancy, and take a pregnancy test if you think you might be pregnant.

How to Stay Protected

Pregnancy scares can cause unnecessary stress. Put a few practices into place so you stay on track with your birth control method and avoid an unplanned pregnancy:

  • Keep your birth control accessible, and store it appropriately.
  • Use a reminder app or alarm so you don’t forget to take your medication.
  • Use an ovulation calendar to track your unique cycle.
  • Inspect barrier methods for flaws, expiration dates, or other compromises.
  • Know your emergency contraceptive options before you need them.

Dispelling the Myths About Emergency Contraception

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that a lack of knowledge about emergency contraception pills (ECPs) can make it difficult to understand how they work. This lack of knowledge leads to misinformation about the safety of ECPs and how they prevent pregnancy. Common myths include:

  • ECPs cause cancer: There is no known link between ECP use and cancer development.
  • ECPs induce abortion: Emergency contraception works by stopping ovulation, or the release of an egg from the ovary. Hormonal birth control has no effect once you are pregnant.
  • ECPs cause infertility: There is no known link between ECP use and infertility. In fact, after using ECPs, fertility levels can return to normal rapidly, so it’s wise to use a backup method of birth control.
  • ECPs elevate health risks: While ECPs are not meant for everyday birth control, you can use them safely two to three times per year.

If you need help choosing the best emergency contraception method for your needs, call a member of our Nurx team or chat with us online.

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