In Australia we are very lucky to have access to various health care products and one of it is through emergency contraceptives – that assist in the prevention of pregnancy.
There are many reasons a woman may require an Emergency Contraceptive so we’ve decided to let you know what is currently available.
You may require an Emergency Contraceptive for any of the following reasons:
- You’ve recently had unprotected sex
- you missed your contraceptive pill
- you’ve been suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea
- you are currently taking antibiotics
- the condom broke or
- you’ve been a victim of sexual assault.
Regardless of the reason, it’s good practice to know what you can do if you find yourself in one of these situations.
Types of Emergency Contraceptives
The Morning Pills
Most of us are aware or have heard about the ‘Morning After Pill’. The name itself is quite misleading. There are currently 2 types of Emergency Contraceptive Pills available and both can be used in the days following unprotected sex. Of course the sooner you are able to administer the medication, the less likely you are to fall pregnant.
The first ECP is called LNG or Levonorgestrel Emergency Contraceptive. This particular ECP is widely available and can be used up to 72 hours or 3 days following unprotected sex. You can purchase the product at any pharmacy without a prescription and will set you back between $20 and $50. LNG is not covered under a concession card and is not available at a reduced cost.
LNG is a single dose medication taken orally. The effectiveness of this particular pill is reduced after a period of 24 hours following unprotected sex. However, it still has a pretty high rate of pregnancy prevention. Out of 100 pregnancies studies revealed that LNG will prevent anywhere between 80 to 90 of them.
The second ECP is called UPA or Ulipristal Acetate Emergency Contraceptive. UPA is available by prescription only but can be taken up to 120 hours or 5 days following unprotected sex. Again time is of the essence as UPA is at its most effective during the first 24 hours after sexual intercourse and slowly decreases in efficiency thereafter.
Like LNG; UPA is a single dose medication taken orally. Its rate of pregnancy prevention however is slightly higher than that of LNG. Out of 100 pregnancies studies revealed that UPA will prevent 98. UPA is around the same price range as LNG and isn’t covered under concession cards either.
Both of these medications work by delaying or completely stopping egg release. If you have already ovulated its secondary function is to hinder sperm function and disenable it from reaching your egg in the uterus. The downside is there can be some unpleasant side effects.
Upon taking either of these products you may possibly experience 1 of more of the following symptoms.
• Sore Breasts
• Abdominal Pain
• Change in your usual cycle
These are often mild and short lived. If you are experiencing severe symptoms following the use of an ECP ensure you see a Dr immediately. An appointment should be made post ECP anyway. Your GP can offer support, confirmation of pregnancy prevention and an exam to check for STI’s if necessary.
IUD – Intrauterine Device
The third Emergency Contraceptive available is an IUD or Intra-Uterine Device. Although IUD’s are generally used as a long term contraceptive product, it can double as an ECP also. If you have an IUD inserted within 5 days following unprotected sex it will act as an Emergency Contraceptive. The upside is an IUD will then continue as a lasting contraceptive for up to 5 years.
An IUD is a T shaped device inserted just inside your uterus. It slowly releases the LNG hormone or Levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy. The hormone released from and IUD changes the mucous in your cervix. It becomes thicker which makes it more difficult for the sperm to move through and reach your egg for fertilisation. An IUD also affects the movement of your egg inside the uterus and alter the uterus’s lining making it a less suitable environment for pregnancy to occur.
IUD’s need to be inserted by a trained physician. You will require an initial consult appointment where you will receive a prescription. Once filled you can return to your Dr for insertion. An IUD is covered under a concession card and if you have one should only cost you around $6. If you don’t however, you are looking at approximately $37 plus your Doctor’s fee if they don’t bulk bill.
An IUD also comes with side effects; again however, they should be mild and clear up within 3 to 6 months of insertion.
You may experience one or more of the following symptoms until your body adjusts.
• Mild pain on insertion
• Cramping and/or backaches for a few days
• Spotting between periods
• Heavier periods
• More intense menstrual cramping
• Light or no period at all
Again if any severe symptoms occur you should immediately see a Doctor. You will however have usually already booked a follow up appointment after IUD insertion so the Doctor can check everything is going well. An IUD is considered to be 99.9% effective in the prevention of pregnancy and is obviously one of the most highly recommended as both an ECP and a long term contraceptive option.
If you find yourself in a situation where you require an Emergency Contraceptive but aren’t sure where to start, you can always contact your local Woman’s Health Clinic, your GP or a visit a Pharmacist. If you are requiring an ECP due to sexual assault, please be sure you seek help. You can contact 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or visit www.1800respect.org.au online for confidential support, counselling and advice.
Consult your doctor FIRST, before getting one.
If you become concerned about any symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice – https://www.stayathomemum.com.au/my-kids/babies/important-hotlines-websites/
SAHM takes no responsibility for any illness, injury or death caused by misuse of this information. All information provided is correct at time of publication.