Emergency Contraceptives: Types, Effectiveness, Usage, Side Effects, Accessibility.


In the realm of sexual health, understanding and having access to resources are key to feeling empowered. Emergency contraceptives are an important resource for individuals, offering a way to prevent unintended pregnancies in situations where regular contraception is ineffective or unavailable. Discover the ins and outs of emergency contraceptives in this all-encompassing guide, where we provide valuable insights into their various types, how well they work, how to use them, and important factors to consider.

Understanding Emergency Contraceptives:

  1. What Are Emergency Contraceptives? 
    • Emergency contraceptives, commonly known as the “morning-after pill,” are utilized to prevent pregnancy following unprotected sex or contraceptive failure.
    • They are typically not meant for everyday use, but rather as a secondary choice when regular contraception methods are ineffective or in situations of sexual assault. 
  2. Types of Emergency Contraceptives:

    a. Oral Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs): 

    • There are two main types of emergency contraceptive pills: Levonorgestrel (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice) and ulipristal acetate (ella).
    • You can buy levonorgestrel pills over-the-counter for any age.
    • Ulipristal acetate, prescribed for overweight people, works better than levonorgestrel.

      b. Copper Intrauterine Device (Cu-IUD):
    • The Cu-IUD works as emergency contraception within five days of unprotected sexual activity.
    • This contraception can be used long-term to prevent pregnancy. 
  3. How Do Emergency Contraceptives Work? 
    • Levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptive pills primarily function by delaying or inhibiting ovulation, thus preventing the release of an egg from the ovary.
    • Ulipristal acetate functions in a similar manner, but it boasts greater efficacy and the added ability to impede ovulation by disrupting the hormone progesterone.
    • Copper IUDs function by creating an unfavorable environment for sperm, thereby hindering fertilization. Additionally, they may impede the implantation of a fertilized egg. 
  4. Effectiveness of Emergency Contraceptives: 
    • The effectiveness of emergency contraceptives can vary based on different factors, such as the specific method used and when it is taken.
    • Levonorgestrel-based pills have the highest effectiveness when taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected intercourse, but they can still be effective up to 120 hours (5 days) later.
    • Ulipristal acetate remains effective for a duration of 120 hours (5 days) following unprotected intercourse.
    • The Cu-IUD is highly effective at preventing pregnancy when inserted within five days of unprotected intercourse. 
  5. Usage and Administration: 
    • Emergency contraceptive pills are typically taken orally, following the instructions provided on the packaging or by a healthcare provider.
    • It is important to carefully follow the instructions, as the effectiveness decreases when administration is delayed.
    • A healthcare provider is required to insert the Cu-IUD, which can be used as a long-term contraceptive option if desired. 
  6. Considerations and Side Effects: 
    • Although emergency contraceptives are generally considered safe and well-tolerated, they can sometimes lead to side effects like nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and breast tenderness.
    • Typically, these side effects are mild and short-lived, usually clearing up within a few days.
    • If vomiting happens within two hours of taking an oral emergency contraceptive pill, it might not have been fully absorbed, and an additional dose might be required. 
  7. Accessibility and Availability: 
    • Levonorgestrel-based emergency contraceptive pills are widely accessible in many countries without the need for a prescription, making them more readily available.
    • Nevertheless, the availability of emergency contraceptives can differ based on legal and cultural considerations, along with socioeconomic status.
    • Efforts to enhance access and minimize obstacles to emergency contraceptives are crucial in promoting reproductive autonomy and preventing unintended pregnancies.



Emergency contraceptives are crucial in reproductive healthcare, offering individuals a backup option to prevent unintended pregnancies in cases where regular contraception fails or is not accessible. Gaining knowledge about the various types, how well they work, when and how to use them, and important factors to consider when it comes to emergency contraceptives allows individuals to make well-informed decisions regarding their sexual and reproductive well-being. Through the promotion of access and education, we can guarantee that emergency contraceptives continue to be an essential part of comprehensive reproductive healthcare, empowering individuals to shape their own destinies.