How emergency contraception works
Prevention of unwanted pregnancy is a topical topic at any time and in any country. Methods and preparations are constantly being improved, but the ideal and suitable for everyone does not yet exist. The most highly effective – hormonal ones – provide some, in addition to contraception, excellent mood and well-being, while others shoot unpleasant side effects. One way or another, very many women at least once in their lives find themselves in a situation where unprotected sex has occurred, and pregnancy and thought cannot be allowed. Let’s see what measures can be taken in this case and how effective they are.
Actually, there are two options: either taking the hormone levonorgestrel in a large dose (1.5 mg), or installing an intrauterine contraceptive device containing copper. The pill should be taken within three days, but the earlier this happens, the higher the effectiveness – it is not for nothing that they are called morning after pills in English. Levonorgestrel prevents the release of the egg from the ovary, and can also prevent its union with the sperm (that is, the actual fertilization). To install an intrauterine device, you need to consult a doctor, but the permissible time interval is slightly wider, up to five days.
The intrauterine device is the very thing that is often commonly called a spiral, because before they were really spiral in shape. Now spirals as such are no longer produced, they were replaced by IUD (intrauterine devices) and IUD (intrauterine systems). In the case of emergency contraception, a copper-bearing device is the most effective option ; in addition, it is suitable as a long-term contraception and will allow you to practically forget about the risk of unwanted pregnancy for several years.
The effect is carried out due to the fact that copper changes the composition of the environment inside the uterus, causing a mild inflammatory process – as a result, the viability of both eggs and spermatozoa decreases and the likelihood of fertilization decreases. If it does happen, the fertilized egg dies in the fallopian tube, without reaching the uterine cavity. It is often said that the copper “coil” has an abortive effect, that is, it destroys the embryo in the uterus – but research data does not support this. In women using a copper-bearing device, very few sperm enter the fallopian tubes, which greatly reduces the likelihood of pregnancy.
In the countries of the former USSR, it is widely believed that intrauterine contraceptives are suitable only for women giving birth, and also cause perforation of the uterus and other terrible complications, but this is not so. In fact, they can be used by those who have not had pregnancy and childbirth, and the frequency of inflammatory diseases when using them is the same as in those who do not have any protection at all. Contraindications include only a pregnancy that has already occurred and some serious illnesses. In general, IUD as an emergency contraception is suitable for women who periodically find themselves in situations of risk and want to put an end to it – but are not ready, for example, to start taking pills, or they are contraindicated for some reason.
Emergency contraceptive pills are also surrounded by different legends – supposedly they have an abortive effect and they will instantly undermine the entire endocrine system, because there are as many hormones in one pill as in a whole package of contraceptives for a month. Of course, the 1.5 mg dose of levonorgestrel that must be taken for emergency prevention of pregnancy is actually quite high: with conventional contraceptive pills, it can be obtained in about ten days. But this is not as dangerous as it seems – the main side effects include changes in menstruation (its onset is not on time, more profuse or light bleeding), nausea, breast tenderness – unpleasant, but not monstrous. True, you cannot take more than one dose per menstrual cycle – this can lead to increased side effects due to an overdose.
The packaging of modern emergency contraceptives contains only one pill with a full dose of levonorgestrel, which must be taken as early as possible, and in the previous generation drugs, two tablets of 0.75 mg, which must be drunk at intervals of twelve hours. It is important that levonorgestrel is not an abortifacient – it only prevents pregnancy and at the same time reduces the risk of abortion. If the pregnancy has already begun, it will not be interrupted by the levonorgestrel pill.
Of course, emergency contraceptive pills cannot be used as a permanent contraceptive method – it is dangerous and not as effective as drugs developed specifically for the long-term prevention of pregnancy. Neither the pill nor the copper IUD protects against infections – and in the event of rape or sex with an unfamiliar partner, measures must be taken to prevent them. If a risky situation occurs from time to time in a stable couple, then the best thing that can be done, in addition to taking emergency measures, is to think about reliable contraception, consult a doctor and start using it.