​Emergency contraception

What is it?

  • Emergency contraception (EC) are hormone pills that can be taken up to five (5) days AFTER having unprotected sex to decrease the risk of becoming pregnant.
  • Emergency contraception pills are commonly called “The Morning-After Pill”, and should not be used as a long term form of birth control.
  • Emergency contraception is not a method of birth control, 95% of women who use them within 24 hours of unprotected sex are able to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. The rates are lower when more than 24 hours has lapsed, but can still be as high as 61%.

Emergency contraception can be used in the following situations;

  • No contraception was used
  • Missed or late birth control pills, patch, or ring, or delay in contraception injection
  • The condom slipped or broke
  • Non-consensual sexual intercourse (sexual assault)
  • Failure to withdraw before ejaculation

How does emergency contraception work?  

  • If EC is taken within five (5) days after having unprotected sex, the two hormones in the pills may stop the egg and the sperm from joining, implanting and starting a pregnancy.
  • The possibility of a pregnancy still exists despite taking these pills. EC will not interrupt the pregnancy or put the fetus at risk.
  • Your doctor or other health care provider will tell you how to take the ECPs. Follow the instructions very carefully and take the pills as soon as possible following unprotected sex.
  • Health Canada is currently evaluating whether body weight impacts the effectiveness of ECP. Please speak to your family physician, Sexual Health Clinic nurse or pharmacist if your weight exceeds 75 kg.

Where can I get emergency contraception?

EC is available without a prescription from;

  • your local pharmacy,
  • your family doctor,
  • a walk-in clinic, or a
  • any Sexual Health Clinic

Are there any side effects?  

EC can cause temporary side-effects in some women, these side effects do not last more than 24 hrs.

Common side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding

Less common side effects include:

  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Migraine or severe headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

If any symptoms such as breast tenderness, dizziness, diarrhea, cramps and bleeding occur for more than 48 hours, seek medical assistance.

If you vomit within an hour of taking EC, you’ll need to retake the dose. Visit the Brant County Health Unit, your doctor, or a walk-in clinic to replace vomited pills.

Seek medical attention right away if you have itching all over your body, severe cramping or pain in your stomach prior to your next normal period, or a severe migraine develops or a migraine is different from past migraines.

When will I get my period?

  • You may have some spotting for a few days after taking the emergency contraceptive pills. This is not your period. Your next real period should begin within 2 or 3 weeks.
  • If you do not get your period in 3 weeks, call the Brant County Health Unit or your doctor to arrange a pregnancy test. Do not have sex until your next menstrual period.

When should I use backup protection?

Emergency contraception is intended for occasional use only. EC is not a primary method of birth control.

Always use a consistent form of birth control and a latex condom. Other birth control options include:

  • Abstinence
  • 28 day birth control pill
  • Birth control patch
  • Birth control ring
  • Birth control shot
  • Inter-uterine device

ECPs do not provide any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Always use a latex condom when you have sex to reduce your risk of getting an STI or HIV infection.