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Emergency Contraception

WHAT IS EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION?

Emergency contraception (EC) is contraception which is used after unprotected sexual intercourse in order to reduce the risk of unplanned pregnancy occurring.

Unprotected sexual intercourse may happen for many reasons and can include intercourse where no contraception was used, having a condom break or slip off, having a diaphragm dislodge during intercourse, or missing a dose of the contraceptive pill.

There are three types of emergency contraception available in Australia:

  • Levonorgestrel EC (a tablet)
  • Ulipristal acetate EC (a tablet)
  • The copper IUD

Levonogestrel - EC.

This contains a progestogen called Levonorgestrel (LNG-EC) in a 1.5mg dose which may come as a single tablet or two tablets.

How does it work? 

LNG- EC works by delaying ovulation (the release of an egg from the ovaries). If an egg is already fertilized or implanted in the womb and a pregnancy has begun, LNG-EC will have no effect.  Emergency contraception cannot cause an abortion.

How do you take it?  

LNG- EC is a tablet taken by mouth.  It needs to be taken within 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex although it may have some effect up to 96 hours (four days). The sooner it is taken the more effective it is.

If vomiting occurs within two hours of taking the dose, you will need a second dose. It is important to continue with any regular contraceptive you are using. It can be used more than once in the same cycle.  LNG EC is suitable for use when breastfeeding. 

How effective is LNG-EC?

LNG- EC is estimated to prevent 60% to 90% of pregnancies that may have occurred when taken within the recommended time frame. The earlier it is taken the more effective it is. To be sure that LNG-EC has worked a pregnancy test should be done three weeks after the last unprotected sex.

Does it have any side effects?                                                                                                                                       

LNG- EC is considered a very safe medication to use.  Most people do not experience any side effects, but if they do occur they may include nausea, headache, and possible changes to your menstrual cycle in the month that you take it. 

Where can I get it?                                                                                                                                              

LNG- EC is available over the counter at most pharmacies. It is also available at the SHFPACT clinic, Walk in Centres, The Junction Youth Health Centre and at Canberra Sexual Health Centre.

ULIPRISTAL-EC (ELLA ONE).

This contains a 30mg dose of ulipristal acetate (UPA-EC) which is a medication called a selective progesterone receptor modulator.

How does it work? 

Ulipristal-EC works primarily by stopping or delaying ovulation. It works even if an egg is just about to be released. It is unlikely to prevent implantation.

How do you take it?  

Ulipristal –EC is a tablet taken by mouth within 120 hours (five days) of unprotected sex. The sooner it is taken the more effective it is.  If vomiting occurs within two hours of taking the UPA-EC, the dose needs to be repeated. If you are breastfeeding you will need to stop feeding your baby for seven days after using UPA-EC and discard any milk expressed during this period. You may resume breastfeeding after the initial seven days.

Please note: If you are using the combined oral contraceptive pill or progestogen only pill (mini pill) you will need to stop taking it for five days after using UPA-EC and once restarted on your previous contraceptive method, use condoms for seven days.

How effective is LNG-EC?

While an exact figure is not known, trials comparing the effectiveness of oral emergency contraception show that UPA-EC prevent significantly more pregnancies than LNG-EC. To be sure that UPA-EC has worked a pregnancy test should be done three weeks after the last unprotected sex.

Does it have any side effects?                                                                                                                                       

Like the LNG-EC, the UPA-EC is considered a very safe medication to use. Most people do not experience side effects, but if they do occur they may include nausea, headaches, and possible changes to your menstrual cycle in the month that you take it.

 Where can I get it?                                                                                                                                              

UPA-EC is available over the counter at most pharmacies.

Copper IUDCOPPER IUD

The copper IUD (intra uterine device) is a small copper coated plastic device which is inserted into the uterus and which can be used as emergency contraception. 

How does it work? 

The Copper IUD works by interfering with sperm and egg movement, and also by preventing implantation. It can also be used as ongoing contraception. It needs to be inserted within five days of unprotected sexual intercourse.

How effective is it?

The Copper IUD is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy when inserted within five days of unprotected sexual intercourse. 

Where can I get a Copper IUD?                                                        

You will need to have an IUD inserted by a specially trained doctor within the correct timeframe once you have been assessed for suitability.

Please contact SHFPACT during businesses hours on 02 6247 3077 or your GP.

EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION BROCHURE PDF

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LAST UPDATED NOVEMBER 2019

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