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Myths about emergency contraception

Dispelling what you think you know


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health


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Emergency contraception (also known as ‘the morning after pill’) has been available over the counter in Ireland since June 2011. This means that you can now get it at a pharmacy without a prescription.

Many women and girls have found this easier access to emergency contraception helpful. However, there are still many myths around about this pill and it’s important that women and girls are informed about the actual facts regarding it.

Myth: The emergency contraceptive pill can only be taken the “morning after” unprotected sex.

Fact: The emergency contraceptive pill can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, but is more effective the sooner it is taken. Efficacy is 95% if taken within the first 24 hours, 85% if taken between 25 and 48 hours and 58% if taken between 49 and 72 hours.

Myth: The emergency contraceptive pill can only be taken three times over a woman’s lifetime.

Fact: This is one of the most common myths about the emergency contraceptive pill and it is simply not true. The emergency contraceptive pill is made out of the same hormone as regular contraception and is gone from the body within 72 hours. Frequent use of the emergency contraceptive pill is not recommended, because it is not as effective as regular contraception, but repeated use poses no health risk and has no effect on future fertility.

Myth: The emergency contraceptive pill causes an abortion.

Fact: The emergency contraceptive pill cannot cause an abortion; it prevents pregnancy. The emergency contraceptive pill works by preventing or delaying ovulation and has no effect on a pregnancy if a woman is already pregnant when it is taken.

Myth: Only teenage girls use the emergency contraceptive pill.

Fact: Women of all ages use the emergency contraceptive pill as a safe and effective way of preventing an unwanted pregnancy when a regular method fails (e.g. condom burst, missed pill or late start to a new cycle of pills), when no contraception was used or when sex is forced. A survey conducted by IFPA in 2009 found that 52% of women accessing emergency contraceptive pill services in IFPA clinics were over the age of 22.

Myth: The emergency contraceptive pill encourages women and girls to have unprotected sex and to stop using regular methods of contraception.

Fact: Research studies from around the world have consistently found that increased access to emergency contraception does not result in an increase in unprotected sex or a decrease in regular contraceptive use.

Remember: The age of sexual consent in Ireland is 17. If you're over 16, you can consent to medical treatment including any treatment or tests needed.

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Published February 6th, 2013
Last updated January 7th, 2016
Tags contraception sexual health safe sex
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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