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Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP) - Safety and Indications

Written by
Dr. Sujata Mittal
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Jul 18, 2017 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018   -  3 min read


Emergency contraception is meant for emergency use to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It is not an abortion pill and is not for regular use, as it has side effects.

Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECP) - Safety and Indications

Safety and Indications:

Nearly half of the pregnancies are unintended, and this is particularly true for teenagers all over the world. Unsafe abortions are a major cause of maternal mortality in some countries, accounting for approximately 8 % of maternal deaths.

As science has progressed, there have been tremendous improvements in contraceptive choices for both women and men. Nevertheless, it is imperative that information spread should be such that clear message is sent to the public in general. As an end user, it is important for the public to understand the utility, safety, and side effects of the drug, as some of the drugs are available over-the-counter like I-pill, Unwanted 72, or Plan B.

What is ECP (Emergency Contraceptive Pills?

As the name suggests, these pills are to be used only in emergency and offer 95 % protection from unwanted pregnancy. Emergency contraception refers to methods of contraception that can be used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse. These are recommended for use within 72 hours, but they are more effective the sooner they are used after the act.

Two methods are recommended by WHO (World Health Organization), one is emergency contraceptive pills, and other is copper-bearing intrauterine devices.

Indications of When to Use Emergency Contraceptive Pills:

  1. When no barrier contraceptive has been used.
  2. Sexual assault.
  3. Condom breakage, slippage, or incorrect use.
  4. Three or more consecutive missed oral contraceptive pills.
  5. Missed Progestin-only birth control pill by more than three hours from the usual time of intake.
  6. Missed Desogestrel pill by more than 12 hours.
  7. Late by four weeks in taking injection Depo-Provera (Medroxyprogesterone acetate).
  8. More than seven days late for combined contraceptive injection.
  9. Tearing or dislodgement of the cervical cap.
  10. Failed withdrawal during ejaculation.
  11. Failure to calculate the safe period days.
  12. Spermicidal jelly or tablet failed to melt before the contact.


  1. Restart birth control pills as soon as possible.
  2. ECP should not be used more than two times a month.
  3. ECP is not a substitute for oral contraceptive pills.
  4. If you vomit immediately after taking the pill, you need to repeat the dose immediately.

Types of ECP (Emergency Contraceptive Pills)


A pregnancy rate of 1.2 to 2.1 % has been reported with Emergency Contraceptive Pills.

Side Effects of Emergency Contraceptive Pills

General Facts

So, emergency contraceptives are an essential aspect of contraception, but it should be used with caution.

For more information consult an Obstetrics and Gynaecologist Online -->


Frequently Asked Questions


Which Is the Best Emergency Contraceptive Pill?

A pill that contains Levonorgestrel or Ulipristal acetate is the best emergency contraceptive pill.


Is One Pill Sufficient To Stop Pregnancy?

Yes, one pill is sufficient to prevent pregnancy if it is taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. But sometimes there are failures also. One tablet taken within the specified time is adequate to stop unwanted pregnancy, and doubling the dose will not increase the effectiveness but may cause increased side effects. Therefore, do not take more than one tablet without consulting a physician.


Will the Contraceptive Pill Be Effective If You Take It After 72 Hours?

The morning-after pills or emergency contraceptive pills work best when taken within 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex, but they can also be taken five days later. The sooner it is taken, the better they work. In women who are weighing more than 155 pounds, Levonorgestrel morning-after pills may not work.


When Should You Take the Emergency Pills?

Even though the emergency contraceptive pill is referred to as the morning-after pill, women do not have to wait until the morning to take the emergency contraceptive pill after unprotected sex. Instead, the emergency contraceptive pill is more effective when you take it as soon as possible after unprotected sex.


Can Emergency Pills Be Harmful?

Emergency contraceptive pills are not harmful and are very safe to be used. Side effects, even if they occur, are usually short-term and mild. Nausea has been reported in about 20% of women using Levonorgestrel emergency contraception, and vomiting can occur in about 4% of women. Cases of ovarian failure have also been reported when used repeatedly.


What Happens After Taking Emergency Contraceptive Pills?

After taking the emergency contraceptive pills, you should have a normal period within the next month. Sometimes, this emergency contraception can change the length of the monthly menstrual cycle, making the next period come as much as a week earlier or a week later than usual.


Will Emergency Contraceptive Pills Lead to Infertility?

Emergency contraceptive pills by themselves will not affect long-term fertility. However, improper and frequent use of the drug can cause hormonal imbalances.


How Does the Emergency Contraceptive Pill Work?

Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by delaying or preventing ovulation and preventing sperm from fertilizing the egg. However, it clearly states that Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills will not be effective if the implantation process has already begun, and it will also not cause abortion.


How Many Pills Should You Take for Emergency Contraception?

It is necessary to take more than two birth control pills to function, like emergency contraception. Popping two birth control pills will not work as emergency contraceptive pills, but it is a reliable method to use if women have just missed a day of taking the pill.


Will Emergency Contraception Help To Prevent STDs?

Most of the birth control contraceptives pills are usually targeted for pregnancies, and very few can be used to prevent STDs.


Which Contraceptive Pill Is Safe During Breastfeeding?

The progesterone-only contraceptive pill, also called a mini-pill, is generally recommended during breastfeeding. However, it needs to be taken simultaneously every day continuously. A delay of more than 3 hours may mean contraceptive protection is lost.


Can an Emergency Contraceptive Pill Cause Bleeding After a Week?

Emergency contraceptives can sometimes change your monthly menstrual cycle length and make the next period come a week before or a week later than usual. Sometimes the hormones in the pills can also cause unexpected bleeding in women, but this is not a common or severe side effect.

Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2018  -  3 min read




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