What is it? Certain oral contraceptives (OCs) or similar pills taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.
Why? A woman had sex--willingly or not--without contraception, and she wants to avoid pregnancy.
How to take emergency OCs? In 2 doses: First dose as soon as possible but no later than 72 hours after unprotected sex. Second dose 12 hours after first dose.
Which pills? See table at right.
How much protection? Seems to prevent 3 of every 4 pregnancies that would otherwise occur. Less effective than most other family planning methods. Should not be relied on routinely.
How does it work? Mainly prevents release of the egg. (Does NOT disrupt existing pregnancy.)
Side effects? Nausea (upset stomach)--To avoid, eat after taking the pills. Vomiting--If you vomit within 2 hours after taking pills, repeat the dose. Otherwise, do not take extra pills. They will not make the method more effective, but they may increase nausea.
Special counseling needs? Be supportive, as always. Don't judge. If sex was forced, the woman may need medical care. Also, she may need special counseling if sex was unwanted (offer referral if appropriate).
Help her consider her future need to avoid STDs and pregnancy. She can start any contraceptive method at once.
This table tells how many pills to take, by formulation:
COPYRIGHT 1998 Department of Health
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group