While some women are ready to embrace the world of pregnancy and motherhood and focus on raising children, others do not see this as an option for themselves. And for many women, and couples, now is simply not the right time.
In an ideal world there would be a method of contraception, other than abstinence, that was 100 percent foolproof; and men and women would share equal responsibility for preventing unwanted pregnancies. Condoms would never break, birth-control pills would never be forgotten, and we would never have a need for emergency contraception.
Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect, and potential mishaps occur every day. No matter how vigilant and responsible you are, contraception can fail. Fortunately, when this occurs, emergency contraception can be a safe and reliable option.
Emergency contraception is sometimes referred to as “the morning-after pill” and is meant to be a backup method — not a form of regular birth control. Common reasons you might need it include:
Your regular birth control failed (for example: your partner's condom broke or slipped, your diaphragm or vaginal ring came out too early, or your birth-control patch came off).
You made a mistake with your regular method (such as forgetting to take your birth-control pills).
You got caught off guard and didn't use any birth-control method.
If you are sexually active and do not wish to become pregnant, it is helpful to be informed and aware of how emergency contraception works. Rather than feeling stressed and upset if your usual birth control fails, it is wise to have a game plan in place to avert an unplanned pregnancy. This is especially important since it is recommended that emergency-contraception measures be taken as soon as possible after your customary contraception fails.
Here are basic facts about emergency contraception that you should know:
There are several forms, and they essentially work by preventing ovulation. This keeps the egg from being released so it can’t be fertilized.
Some methods are available only with a doctor’s prescription, which requires an office visit, or at a women’s health center; while others are available at your local pharmacy without a prescription.
You need to be 17 or older to buy emergency contraception. Because of this age restriction, if you go to a pharmacy to pick up the medication — for either nonprescription or prescription emergency birth control — you’ll need to ask the pharmacist because it can be found only behind the pharmacy counter.
Availability can vary, so call first to make sure your local pharmacy or women’s health center carries the kind of emergency contraceptive you might use.
Most methods work more effectively the sooner you use them, but some are reported to be effective for three days or more after contraception failure.
It is important to note that emergency contraception is meant to prevent pregnancy. It is not an abortion pill and cannot end an existing pregnancy. It should not be used by pregnant women.
Emergency contraception should be used only as your backup method of contraception. It is a safeguard for those unforeseen times when you are faced with a contraception challenge. Until you are ready to have children, talk to your doctor about the best ways to prevent pregnancy, and consider options such as birth-control pills, vaginal contraceptive rings, condoms, and other methods.