Sexuality and U

Birth Control

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Emergency Contraception (Morning after Pill)


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You get caught up in the heat of the moment, and have sex without contraception. Maybe the condom breaks, or in the worse case scenario, you are sexually assaulted. Regardless how it happens, unprotected sex opens the door to the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. This can be a scary experience, but there is help out there in the form of emergency contraception (EC).

Emergency Contraception can prevent an unplanned pregnancy in the following situations:

  • No contraception was used
  • Missed birth control pills, patch, or ring
  • The condom slipped, broke, or leaked
  • The diaphragm or cervical cap is dislodged during sexual intercourse or was removed too early
  • Error in the calculation of the fertility period
  • Non-consensual sexual intercourse (sexual assault)

Unlike other forms of contraception, emergency contraception (EC) can be used AFTER intercourse to prevent pregnancy. As the name suggests, emergency contraception is not something you want to rely on. This is a last chance contraception. EC is a simple and safe way to prevent pregnancy.

How it works

Hormonal EC methods (“the morning after pill”):

Works by delaying or inhibiting the release of an egg (ovulation), altering the luteal phase length, and also possibly inhibiting the implantation of a fertilized egg. In the unlikely event that implantation does occur, EC does not interrupt the pregnancy or put the fetus at risk.

The effectiveness of EC is highest when taken within 24 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse and declines over time. EC pills might be less effective in women weighing 165 to 176 pounds (75-80 kg), and are not effective in women over 176 pounds (80kg).

Some women experience side effects, including vomiting and nausea. If vomiting occurs within 1 hour of taking the pills, the dose may have to be repeated. Your health care professional can suggest medication, like Gravol™, to avoid this problem.  Your period should start within 21 days after taking EC. See your health care professional if it does not.

Copper intrauterine device (copper IUD):

Works by creating a hostile chemical environment in the uterus for the sperm and eggs.

The copper intrauterine device (copper IUD) may be used as emergency contraception and for ongoing long-term contraception. For emergency contraceptive purposes, it can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex or up to 5 days after the estimated date of ovulation; this is the most effective method of emergency contraception, regardless of a woman’s weight.

How to get it

Hormonal EC methods (“the morning after pill”):

EC is easy to find because it is now available in Canadian pharmacies without a prescription. You can also contact the nearest health centre in your area, your own doctor, a walk-in clinic, or the nearest birth control/sexual health clinic. The cost varies depending on which EC you use and where you get it. You can obtain the product in advance and store it for use in case of an emergency. 

Copper intrauterine device (copper IUD):

Inserted by a health-care professional and available by prescription only.


You have two types of EC methods to choose from:

(1) Hormonal EC methods (“the morning after pill”):
 Emergency contraceptive pills may contain estrogen and progestin, or progestin alone. EC is now available in Canadian pharmacies without a prescription.

(2) A copper intrauterine device (copper IUD):
  Inserted by a health-care professional and available by prescription only.

When mistakes happen, Emergency Contraception is the last chance to take control of your reproductive destiny, so make sure you know how to get it - just in case. Emergency contraception is intended for occasional use only. You should not rely on EC as your primary method of birth control, as it’s less effective than regular contraceptive methods.  It does not, by any means, protect against Sexually transmitted infections.

S.O.S (Stay on Schedule)

In today’s fast-paced society, most people’s schedules are jammed full of meetings, events, commitments, and responsibilities. It’s not surprising that we sometimes get “off-track” with missed appointments or meetings that take longer than expected. When it comes to contraception, timing and consistency are key to effectiveness. Missing a dose or extending the use of a particular contraceptive method can have serious repercussions. Don’t panic! There may be measure you can take to reduce your risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

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