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Debunking the myths around Emergency Contraceptive Pills

Joy Chatterjee, General Manager, Sales & Marketing, Mankind Pharma

Emergency Contraceptive Pills come to one’s rescue in effectively preventing unwanted pregnancy due to unprotected sex or cases when there is a contraceptive failure. It can be taken post-coitus to inhibit the process of fertilization. But according to WHO there is not much widespread use of ECP due to its lack of knowledge and where there is knowledge about ECP, people are not willing to use it because of the misconceptions looming around one’s fertility and safety.

Let’s debunk some of the common myths about Emergency Contraceptive Pills.

1)    Myth – ECP cannot be purchased without Doctor’s Prescription     

Fact – Many are of the notion that buying ECP requires a valid prescription from a doctor. But on the contrary Emergency Contraceptive Pills can be easily bought over the counter from pharmacies, contraceptive clinics, hospitals, gynecological and GP clinics without presenting any prescription or ID card.

2)    Myth – Emergency Contraceptive Pills will not work after 24 hours

Fact – As ECPs are also referred to as ‘morning-after pill,’ many believe that ECP should be taken the very next morning or in the worst case before the completion of 24 hours after having unprotected sex. Though it works best when taken at the earliest, it does not mean that it is a waste if taken post 24 hours. ECP’s work effectively for up to 3 days i.e. 72 hours after encountering unprotected sex and there are also some ECP’s that are valid for 5 days (120 hours) from the day of sex.

3)    Myth – Taking pills more than once in a cycle can be dangerous and also lead to infertility

Fact – Taking pills more than once in a cycle is not at all dangerous and is safe. Being exposed to high levels of hormones in Emergency Contraceptive Pills can disrupt the menstrual cycle, cause breast tenderness, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, tiredness but it will not lead to infertility or any serious health implications. But it must be noted that ECPs are not a regular form of contraception and other options must be considered if one is looking for prolonged contraception.   

 4)    Myth – Emergency Contraceptive Pills are 100% effective

 Fact – One might think that taking ECP after coitus can successfully prevent pregnancy, but it is not always the case. There are various factors to be taken into account which ensure the effectiveness of the pills. The sooner the ECP is taken, the higher the chances of its 100% effectiveness. If taken in the later phase when ovulation has already taken place, then the functioning of ECP might be diluted. Also, if one is seeking other medication to cure illnesses like epilepsy, heartburn, etc. even then the benefits of ECP cannot be availed to the fullest.

5)    Myth – ECP causes abortion

 Fact – ECP prevents pregnancy and does not end the pregnancy. It inhibits the fertilization of an egg either by stopping the release of the egg from the ovary or by preventing the implantation of the fertilized egg to the uterus. The pills work only when taken before pregnancy is established. If taken after the pregnancy, it does not have any effect on the existing pregnancy and does not harm the developing child.

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