Emergency Contraception: How to Prevent Pregnancy After Unprotected Sex

    Emergency Contraception: How to Prevent Pregnancy After Unprotected Sex
    Updated 16 January 2020 |
    Published 09 January 2020
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency
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    Today we’re going to talk about how emergency contraception works and what you can expect from using this contraceptive method.

    Emergency contraception: how to choose

    Emergency contraception can be used in the following situations: unprotected sexual intercourse, the possible failure of the contraceptive method used, incorrect use of contraceptives, and sexual assault without contraception. 

    There are several types of emergency contraception.

    The most effective one is the copper intrauterine device, which should be inserted within 5 days after sexual intercourse. It will then continue protecting you against pregnancy as an ordinary contraceptive. However, for this procedure to be performed, you should make an appointment with a doctor, which may not be very convenient in urgent cases.

    There are also emergency contraceptive pills, which differ in terms of active components. Their dosage regimens also vary accordingly. These contraceptives can be taken as a single dose or once every 12 hours, typically within 3 to 5 days after unprotected intercourse, depending on the chosen pill. Some emergency contraception pills are available at the pharmacy without a prescription. 

    How emergency contraception works

    Some people reject emergency contraception because they consider it is a form of abortion. In fact, emergency contraception does not induce an abortion. It prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation or affecting sperm because sperm and egg typically don’t meet directly during sexual intercourse.

    The main types of emergency contraception address the problem differently.

    • Pills contain hormones that stop or delay ovulation; this means the sperm can’t meet an egg.
    • Copper contained in the copper IUD can stimulate the creation of an acidic environment, which is harmful to the sperm.

    Some tips for using emergency contraception

    It is important to remember some rules that will help you avoid mishaps when taking emergency contraception:

    • Take emergency contraception as soon as possible after intercourse.
    • If unprotected sex happened during ovulation or within a fertile window, use a copper IUD for better emergency contraception effectiveness.
    • Don’t use several emergency contraception methods at once. As a rule, this does not enhance protection against unwanted pregnancy and may worsen your condition.
    • It is recommended that overweight women use a copper IUD because this method will be more effective for them than pills.
    • It is very important to choose the method that works best for you.
    • Keep in mind that emergency contraceptives do not protect against HIV and other STIs!

    If you’re wondering how to prevent pregnancy after having sex, emergency contraception is the answer you’re looking for. Just do your prior research and consult a doctor if you have any doubts.

    Content created in association with UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.

    History of updates
    Current version (16 January 2020)
    Medically reviewed by UNFPA, the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency
    Published (09 January 2020)
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