What are the Different Types of Emergency Contraceptives?

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  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2018
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Emergency contraceptives are generally used to help prevent conception when other methods of birth control may have failed, or have not been used. Forms of emergency contraception include the "morning after pill," which normally contains a high dose of the hormone progestin. Some types of birth control pills may be used as emergency contraceptives, if two to five pills are taken at once. Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are also often used to provide emergency contraception. Emergency contraceptive pills and IUDs are different from abortion pills, since they are usually used within 72 hours of unprotected sex, to prevent conception altogether, rather than end early pregnancy.

The emergency contraceptive or morning after pill marketed under the brand name Plan B™ may be one of the most popular forms of emergency contraception. The Plan B™ pill contains 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel, a synthetic form of the hormone progestin. Plan B™ can often prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, or by keeping sperm from penetrating a released egg in the uterus. Plan B™ is usually taken once. While Plan B™ can prevent pregnancy if used within five days of unprotected intercourse, it is most effective when taken as soon as possible after intercourse. Most doctors recommend Plan B™ be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse.


Next Choice® is another of the emergency contraceptives available for use by women. Next Choice® is similar to Plan B™, but typically comes in two doses, to be taken 12 hours apart. Like Plan B™, it contains levonorgestrel; each dose is 0.75 mg for a combined dose of 1.5 mg. Doctors usually recommend that Next Choice® be taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, for maximum effectiveness.

Some types of ordinary birth control pills can also be used as emergency contraceptives. Women are generally advised to consult their physicians before attempting this, since not all types or brands of birth control pills can be safely used in this manner. A large dose of two to five birth control pills is usually necessary, depending on the type and brand of pill.

Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, can be used as emergency contraceptives if inserted within five days of unprotected intercourse. IUDs may be made out of copper, or they may be made out of plastic. Some IUDs release hormones, while others do not. These devices must generally be placed inside the uterus by a trained physician, and can be removed after the patient's next menstrual period or left in place as a long-term contraceptive device. While emergency contraceptive pills usually prevent pregnancy by stopping the fertilization of the egg, an IUD can prevent pregnancy even after the fertilized egg has attached itself to the uterine wall.



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