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 the information here on AWARE’s services for victims of sexual assault.

Summary

  • Emergency contraception should be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex but the sooner you take it the better. Taking it the next day is best. As time passes, the chance of pregnancy increases.
  • It is estimated to reduce the risk of pregnancy by 75-90%.
  • In Singapore you have to get it from a doctor. Most doctors can provide it. If your doctor doesn’t, go to another one.
  • The woman has to get it herself: the man cannot get it for his partner.
  • If you don’t menstruate within 3 weeks of taking emergency contraception, get a pregnancy test or see a doctor.

 

The Morning After Pill

Emergency contraception is also know as “Plan B” and “the morning after pill.” It is widely available in Singapore.

Despite the name “morning after”, it can be started up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected intercourse. It is, however, more effective the sooner you take it.

It is NOT the same thing as the “abortion pill” (mifepristone / RU-486). Emergency contraception is birth control. It does not cause an abortion: it prevents pregnancy.

The abortion pill, on the other hand, causes an abortion and may work up to 9 weeks after the first missed menses. For more information on the abortion pill, see here.

 

How do I get it?

See your gynie or GP.

  • It is available by prescription only: it is not available over the counter.
  • It is often carried in GP clinics and by gynaecologists (gynie).
  • Any woman, regardless of age, can get the drug from a doctor or GP subject to a consultation.
  • The 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. You cannot get it for her.

 

How do I take it? How do I know it worked?

Take emergency contraception as soon as possible after unprotected intercourse. The sooner you start it, the better it will work.

Your doctor will give you two pills – one which is taken immediately and the other taken 12 hours later.

After you take emergency contraception, it’s normal for your next menses to be different from usual. It may be earlier or later, heavier or lighter.

If you do not have your menses within three weeks after taking emergency contraception, or if you have any symptoms of pregnancy, take a pregnancy test or schedule an appointment with your doctor.

 

Side Effects

Emergency contraception is equivalent to taking a high dose of “the pill” (oral contraception). This means your body is bombarded with hormones so there may be some side effects.

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

  • nausea and throwing up
  • 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 keeping a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs — ovulation. 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.

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

    Emergency contraception should not be used as a form of ongoing birth control because there are other forms of birth control that are a lot more effective and less stressful to the body.