In this article, we’ll be explaining what emergency contraception is, how they work, the different kinds of emergency contraception available in Singapore and their potential side effects.
Emergency contraception refers to methods of birth control that is used to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex. It is recommended that emergency contraception be used within 72 to 120 hours after unprotected sex but the sooner they are taken, the more effective they will be at preventing pregnancy.
Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy by either killing the sperm before it reaches the egg or by delaying ovulation to stop fertilization from occuring. It is important to note that emergency contraception does not induce an abortion.
You should use emergency contraception if any of the following has occurred:
The 2 main types of emergency contraception are Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD) and Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs), with ECPs being the most commonly used form of emergency contraception.
Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)
A copper-releasing IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. While it is normally used as a long-term birth control, copper IUDs (specifically Paragard) can act as a form of emergency contraception if it is inserted into the uterus within 5 days after unprotected sex has occured. You can get the copper IUD safely removed by a doctor after your next period cycle is complete, or you can choose to leave the copper IUD in as a long-term form of birth control that will last up to 10 years.
Copper IUDs prevent unwanted pregnancy by releasing copper into both the uterus and the fallopian tubes, effectively acting as a form of spermicide and preventing the sperm from reaching the egg.
While copper IUDs are generally regarded as a safe form of both birth control and emergency contraception, it does slightly raise the risk of experiencing pelvic inflammatory disease during the first 3 weeks of use. However, these risks are very low. You should consult your doctor on whether using copper-releasing IUDs is suitable for you both as a form of emergency contraception and long-term birth control.
Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs)
Often referred to as “Morning-After” pills, emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are hormone pills. They contain a significantly higher level of hormones found in birth control pills to prevent pregnancy from occurring.
Currently, there are 2 main types of emergency contraceptive pills or “morning-after” pills: ones that contain the hormone levonorgestrel, and ones that contain the hormone ulipristal acetate.
1. Levonorgestrel Emergency Contraceptive Pills
Known by its brand names such as Plan B One Step®, Postinor® and Preventeza®, levonorgestrel ECPs prevent unwanted pregnancy by delaying the release of the egg from the ovary and stops fertilization from occuring. Levonorgestrel ECPs are the most effective when you consume them within 72 hours after unprotected sex.
According to data reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO), levonorgestrel ECPs have a 97.9 to 98.8% success rate of preventing unwanted pregnancy when taken within 72 to 120 hours after unprotected sex. As with all emergency contraceptives, it is still highly advisable to take it as soon as you can after the unprotected sex has occured.
2. Ulipristal Acetate Emergency Contraceptive Pills
Known by its brand name ella®, ulipristal acetate ECPs prevent unwanted pregnancy by suppressing and delaying ovulation to stop fertilization from happening. Ulipristal acetate ECPs are the most effective when you consume them within 120 hours after unprotected sex.
According to data reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO), ulipristal acetate ECPs are considered the most effective morning-after pill with a 98.8% success rate at preventing unwanted pregnancy. As with all emergency contraceptives, it is still highly advisable to take it as soon as you can after the unprotected sex has occurred.
Emergency contraceptives pills are at its most effective when taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex. It is completely normal to experience some spotting a few days after taking the pill as they delay ovulation. Your subsequent period might be slightly irregular after taking the emergency contraceptive pill as it could come slightly earlier by a week, be heavier than usual, or lighter than usual.
If you don't get your period within three weeks after taking the emergency contraceptive pill, or you experience any pregnancy symptoms (nausea, swollen breasts, fatigue and increased urination), it is important that you take a pregnancy test or consult your doctor.
If you experience spotting or bleeding that lasts longer than 7 days or experience lower abdominal pain after taking the emergency contraceptive pill, it is important that you consult your doctor.
While emergency contraceptive pills are generally safe to consume for most women and many do not experience side effects, there is a possibility that you might experience mild side effects. As mentioned earlier, emergency contraceptive pills contain a higher dosage of hormones than the ones found in daily birth control and might cause you to experience the following side effects:
It is recommended that you have either a small meal or a snack before taking the morning-after pill, to try and help mitigate nausea and vomiting that might occur.
In order to get a morning-after pill, you will need to see a doctor for a prescription for it. Additionally, you will need to be above the age of 16 in order to be prescribed an emergency contraceptive.
So how can I get an emergency contraceptive pill in Singapore after having unprotected sex?
With Zoey, a digital health clinic for women in Singapore, you will be able to get the emergency contraceptive pills you need from the privacy and comfort of your home. You won't have to worry about the safety or legitimacy of the emergency contraceptive pills provided as Zoey is a recognized by the Ministry Of Health (MOH) as a direct telemedicine service provider.
Getting started with Zoey couldn't be simpler - all you need to do is answer an online medical evaluation, which will allow you to book a teleconsultation session with a licensed doctor at your convenience. If prescribed, your emergency contraceptive pill will be delivered straight to your doorstep. Given the time-sensitive nature of the prescription, we will endeavour to have it delivered to you within the 4-hour delivery promise.
1. How Soon Must You Take Emergency Contraception Pills To Avoid Pregnancy?
While the exact timing will differ between different kinds of emergency contraceptive pills, morning-after pills should be taken with 72 hours (3 days) after having unprotected sex.
Some emergency contraceptive pills that contain ulipristal acetate have a much wider time frame and will still be effective when taken within 120 hours.
Of course, it is highly recommended that you take the morning-after pill as soon as you can after having unprotected sex, as the fast you take it, the more effective it will be.
2. How Often Can I Use Emergency Contraception Pills?
While there is no hard limit to how many times you can use the morning-after pill as taking it multiple times will not affect its ability to effectively prevent unwanted pregnancies, it is not recommended that you rely on emergency contraceptive pills as your main method of birth control.
This is because emergency contraceptive pills don't prevent unwanted pregnancies as well as other methods of birth control like birth control pills, rings, patches. Emergency contraceptive pills also tend to be more expensive and less convenient than other birth control methods.
Taking morning-after pills often can potentially cause your periods to become irregular and much harder to predict your cycle. So while it is completely safe to take emergency contraceptive pills as often as it is necessary, using regular forms of birth control (pills, patches, rings, IUDs etc) are still the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies long-term.
3. Can Taking Emergency Contraception Pills Affect My Fertility And Prevent Me From Getting Pregnant In The Future?
Using emergency contraception (either in the form of pills, or IUDs) will not cause you infertility issues and will not prevent you from being pregnant in the future.
You should use emergency contraception when you deem it to be necessary after having unprotected sex.
If you've recently had unprotected sex and need an emergency contraceptive pill, you can consult a doctor on our platform. Here at Zoey, we understand that emergency contraception is a time-sensitive prescription and will endeavour to have your medication delivered to you within the 4-hour delivery promise.
“Emergency Contraception.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/emergency-contraception. (Link)