Emergency Birth Control: An Overview

While available modern contraception methods are highly effective at preventing unplanned pregnancies, human error and some irregularities can cause them to fail. A condom may break due to a lack of lubrication or a scheduled pill intake might be missed due to a lot of activities. A lot of people have sex without realizing that they are unprotected and for this reason, emergency birth control is developed.

What is emergency birth control?

Emergency birth control, also known as EBC, is the general term used to describe a variety of methods used to prevent pregnancies after one had unprotected sex. The medical industry defines EBC as a preventative method since it does not terminate an existing pregnancy but rather prevents one form actually occurring. Medicine defines a pregnancy as the point in time when a fertilized egg is implanted in the uterus. When an egg, despite being fertilized, is not implanted in the uterus, a pregnancy cannot exist. This is what EBC prevents; the implantation of a fertilized egg inside the uterus.

Given this, there are some things EBC is not.

* EBC is not an abortifacient. It does not induce abortion or terminate any existing pregnancies.
* EBC is not a form of regular birth control. It is only used after having unprotected sex.
* EBC is not only a ?Morning After Pill,? it can be taken three days after having unprotected sex.

What are the available forms of EBC?

EBC come in two forms: pills and Copper-T Intrauterine Device. The pills, usually referred to as ?Morning After Pills,? are available through prescription while the Copper-T IUD must be inserted and fitted by a gynecologist.

EBC Pills

Emergency birth control pills are similar to regular BCP except for the higher hormonal content. As such, EBC pills also come in two kinds: combination and progestin-only pills. Although both are highly effective, progestin-only pills are found to have fewer side effects and more effective than combination pills.

Copper-T Intrauterine Device

Like most contraception IUDs, Copper-T IUD must be fitted by a gynecologist or clinician to minimize risks of infection. This IUD can be used for five days after having unprotected sex. Strict supervision of a clinician or gynecologist must be sought when using IUDs since these devices can increase risks of infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.

How EBC works?

Contrary to popular belief, a woman does not get pregnant immediately after having unprotected sex. Clinically, pregnancy is a process the reproductive system undergoes for at least five days after unprotected sex. EBC works by preventing the successful implantation of a fertilized egg inside the uterus. Since it can take a sperm at least hours or days before it can find and fertilize an egg and for the fertilized egg to travel and implant itself in the uterus, EBC can interrupt this process when taken immediately following unprotected sex. EBC, in the case of pills, raises the body's hormone levels to a point that it is intolerable for the fertilized egg. For IUD EBC, it blocks the way into the uterus which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting itself.

Regardless of the type of EBC a woman uses, it is important to have a proper consultation with a clinician or gynecologist to ensure the maximum efficacy of the chosen method. Of course, safe sex and using effective regular birth control methods are the best ways to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

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