Emergency Contraception

Note: If you are seeking information on emergency contraception because you were sexually assaulted, date raped or otherwise forced to have unprotected sex, you should also read about AWARE’s services for victims of sexual assault.

Contents:

  1. What is emergency contraception?
  2. When should I take emergency contraception?
  3. How do I get it?
  4. How do I know it worked?
  5. What are its side effects?
  6. How does it work?
  7. How often can I use it?

 

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception, also known as “Plan B” and “the morning after pill”, is birth control you can use to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. It is widely available in Singapore. Different brands provide either one or a set of two pills you need to take.

Emergency contraception is usually more effective the earlier you take it after unprotected sex. If you need emergency contraception, visit a doctor as soon as possible, ideally within 48-72 hours of unprotected sex.

Emergency contraception is not the same thing as the “abortion pill” (mifepristone/RU-486). If you are already pregnant, emergency contraception does not cause an abortion. Emergency contraception is estimated to reduce the risk of pregnancy by 75-90%.

 

When should I take emergency contraception?

You can take emergency contraception if any of the following situations occur:

  • Condom broke during sex
  • Condom came off during sex
  • You or your partner forgot to use a condom
  • You forgot to take oral contraception (birth control pill)
  • You were forced into unprotected sex by anyone, including a boyfriend or husband

 

How do I get it?

In Singapore, emergency contraception is only available with a prescription, so you need to consult a doctor (general practitioners can usually help). If your doctor can’t provide the pill, please visit another GP. Any woman, regardless of age, can get the drug from a doctor or GP subject to a consultation.

A woman must consult the doctor herself; a man cannot consult with the doctor on behalf of his partner. In other words, if you are a man whose partner needs emergency contraception, she needs to see the doctor herself. Please inform your doctor if you have any allergies or are already taking any medication.

 

How do I know it worked?

Take emergency contraception as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse. It is normal for your next menses after taking the morning after pill to be different from usual. It may be up to one week earlier or later, heavier or lighter.

If you do not get your menses within three weeks of taking emergency contraception, or if you have any symptoms of pregnancy, take a pregnancy test or schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you have bleeding or spotting that lasts longer than a week or develop severe lower abdominal pain three to five weeks after taking the morning-after pill, contact your doctor.

 

 

What are its side effects?

Emergency contraception is equivalent to taking a high dose of hormonal oral contraception (birth control pills). Due to the large dose of hormones, there may be some side effects.

Some, but not all, women report some of these side effects:

  • nausea and throwing up (If you vomit within two hours after taking the pill, another consultation may be needed to discuss whether repeated dose is required.)
  • breast tenderness
  • irregular bleeding
  • dizziness
  • headaches

Nausea can sometimes be reduced by taking the medication on a full stomach or taking anti-nausea medication an hour beforehand.

 

How does it work?

Emergency contraception is made of one of the hormones found in birth control pills—progestin. This hormone works by preventing ovulation, or ovaries from releasing eggs. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with sperm.

The hormone in the morning-after pill also prevents pregnancy by thickening a woman’s cervical mucus. The mucus blocks sperm and keeps it from joining with an egg.

The hormone also thins the lining of the uterus. In theory, this could prevent pregnancy by keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus.

 

How often can I use it?

Emergency contraception should not be used as your primary method of birth control. It is, as the name implies, for emergencies. Do not use emergency contraception as a form of ongoing birth control – the morning-after pill doesn’t offer lasting protection from pregnancy. If you have unprotected sex in the days and weeks after taking the morning-after pill, you’re at risk of becoming pregnant.

If you use the morning-after pill frequently, it may cause your menses to be irregular.

Other forms of birth control are a lot more effective and less stressful to the body. For more information, please visit our page on contraception.