When you’re getting intimate with your significant other, emergency contraception would probably be the last thing on your mind. Perhaps you’ve never even heard of the term before, and your knowledge on getting emergency contraception in Singapore might be non-existent. After all, emergency contraception is probably one of those things you won’t think about until you need it.
In this article, we help you gain a better understanding about emergency contraception by separating myth and fact.
What does emergency contraception do?
To put it simply, emergency contraception reduces the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex.
Emergency contraception can be used when you forget to take several birth control pills in a row, when your partner’s condom breaks or slips off, or when you’re not using a birth control method. It also can be used if you were forced into having unprotected sex.
7 myths about emergency contraception in Singapore
1. There’s only the morning-after pill
Also known as “Plan B”, these pills come in two forms — one containing levonorgestrel (a type of the hormone progesterone), and the other type containing ulipristal acetate. Whichever pill is given to you, both work to prevent or delay ovulation.
While the morning-after pill may be the most commonly used and most heard of method, it isn’t your only option for emergency contraception in Singapore.
There’s also the copper intrauterine device (IUD) known as ParaGard. This is a small “T”-shaped device attached to a string, which is inserted into the uterus by a medical professional at a clinic. This type of IUD does not contain any hormones, but uses copper to prevent fertilisation and implantation of an egg in your uterus.
Copper IUDs are a form of emergency contraception since they can lower your chance of getting pregnant by over 99.9 percent if inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex. The copper IUD also works as a long-term kind of birth control. The copper IUD can work for up to three to five years after insertion to prevent pregnancy.
2. You should take the morning-after pill in the morning
Don’t wait till the morning as it may be too late! Many believe that the morning-after pill should only be taken in the morning or 24 hours after having unprotected sex. That’s not the case at all! These pills are most effective when taken as soon as possible.
For levonorgestrel pills, the first tablet should be taken within 72 hours after having sex and the second one taken 12 hours after the first. Studies have shown that levonorgestrel pills have a pregnancy rate of only 1.2% to 2.1%.
An emergency contraception pill can become less effective if you take it 72 hours after sex. It’s vital that you take it as soon as possible after having unprotected sex as it can prevent the hormone surge that triggers ovulation in your body.
If you find yourself unable to get emergency contraception in Singapore right away, don’t worry. Some pills like EllaOne (which contains ulipristal acetate) can be used up to five days after having unprotected sex.
The same goes for the copper IUD. While it’s the most effective form of emergency contraception, medical experts suggest getting it as soon as possible. Delaying it can increase your chances of getting pregnant.
3. Emergency contraception can cause an abortion
Taking emergency contraception can reduce the chances of a pregnancy, but it can’t end one that has already started.
There can be some confusion between the morning-after pill and the abortion pill, also known as medication abortion. To clarify the differences, here’s a comparison between each.
|Type of pill/contraception||Morning-after pill||Copper intrauterine device (IUD)||Abortion pill|
|What is it?||Emergency contraception to be taken up to five days after having unprotected sex.||Emergency contraception in the form of a “T”-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. |
It contains copper that prevents fertilisation and implantation of an egg in your uterus if inserted up to five days after having unprotected sex.
|Also known as medication abortion, it contains mifepristone, which induces an abortion when taken orally.|
|How does it work?||It contains either levonorgestrel (hormone) or ulipristal acetate (medication), which helps to prevent or delay ovulation when taken orally.||It causes a chemical change in your uterus that damages the sperm and egg before fertilisation.||It ends pregnancy by reducing the thickness of the uterine lining and blocks the hormones required for maintaining a pregnancy.|
|Can it cause an abortion?||No. If you’re already pregnant, it won’t affect the development of your baby.||No. While it prevents implantation of a fertilised egg, it does not end a successful implantation. It also does not affect the development of a baby if you’re pregnant.||Yes. This pill is meant to end a pregnancy.|
Now that the differences are laid out, you don’t need to fret about emergency contraception causing an abortion.
4. Emergency contraception is always effective
While this may be true most of the time, the effectiveness of emergency contraception depends on the type you use and how soon you take it. Whether it’s 72 hours or five days after having unprotected sex, using emergency contraception is better than not doing anything at all.
For instance, the morning-after pill works by preventing or delaying ovulation. Ovulation happens when an egg is released into your fallopian tube. The timing can vary depending on your menstrual cycle, but it normally takes place between 13 to 15 days before your period.
If ovulation has already occurred at the time of unprotected sex, your method of emergency contraception might not work as the egg has already been released. As such, the pill’s effectiveness would depend on which stage of your menstrual cycle you’re at.
Some external factors that may affect the effectiveness of the morning-after pill include your weight, the type of medications you’re currently taking and your current contraceptive methods.
For example, taking birth control pills five days before or after you’ve taken the ulipristal acetate morning-after pill can reduce its effectiveness. Make sure you get the levonorgestrel morning-after pill from your doctor instead to increase its effectiveness if you’re on the birth control pill.
Among all forms of emergency contraception, the copper IUD is the most effective one, especially when inserted within five days after having unprotected sex.
It’s good to remember that emergency contraception, while highly effective, is not completely foolproof. If you’ve taken the pill or got a copper IUD inserted but your period is late, take a pregnancy test or visit a doctor to be sure.
5. You won’t have to take the pill again if you have sex again
Emergency contraception can help prevent a pregnancy only after a recent sexual activity. It does not prevent pregnancy from future sexual intercourse.
If you have unprotected sex again before your period, you’d probably have to take the pill again. The sperm can live inside your uterus for up to five days after ejaculation, which means that the probability of a pregnancy is higher within this time frame.
The morning-after pill delays ovulation by a few days, which means an egg will still be released, just later in your menstrual cycle. If you have unprotected sex again, especially within the next three to five days, it could affect the effectiveness of the pill. This means having sex again would increase your chances of getting pregnant.
In theory, it may seem alright to take the morning-after pill as protection right before you have sex, but why risk it? It’s meant to be most effective right after having unprotected sex, not right before.
6. Taking the morning-after pill too often can affect your fertility
There is no evidence that taking the morning-after pill too often can affect your fertility. Also, it won’t prevent you from becoming pregnant in the future if you decide to have children.
Morning-after pills also do not increase your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy either. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg is implanted but grows outside the main cavity of the uterus. The pills will reduce the risk of an ectopic pregnancy as it reduces your overall risk of getting pregnant.
Note that using the pill too frequently can cause your periods to become irregular (among other things), which may cause unnecessary stress on your body. While using the pill may cause some side effects (which we’ll get to later), frequent use can cause these side effects to recur.
With that in mind, make sure to keep up with your regular birth control methods. An emergency contraception pill isn’t meant to be your main form of birth control. It won’t be as effective as other methods like birth control pills, an IUD or an implant, but the main point is to use it for emergencies only.
In the event you do get pregnant after taking the morning-after pill, it won’t harm pregnancy outcomes (like premature birth and low birth weight) or cause fetal abnormalities.
7. Emergency contraception protects you from STDs
A copper IUD does not protect you against STDs. Since this device is inserted into your uterus, the copper IUD does not form a barrier against bodily fluids entering your body, unlike a condom.
A male condom creates a space to hold semen after ejaculation while a female condom creates a barrier between the sperm and the cervix. Since STDs can be transmitted through bodily fluids during sexual contact, taking the morning-after pill or getting copper IUD will not protect you from contracting an STD.
This means that even if you have a copper IUD inserted or have taken the morning-after pill, you’re still susceptible to STDs.
If you need to use emergency contraception after having unprotected sex and you’re unsure of your partner’s sexual history, you might want to go and get tested for STDs.
Things to note about emergency contraception in Singapore
1. You need a prescription to get it
While it’s easy to get the morning-after pill over-the-counter in other countries, things work differently in Singapore.
The regulations for getting emergency contraception in Singapore are a little stricter. The morning-after pill is only available with a prescription and you need to see a doctor to get it.
Emergency contraception pills contain potent ingredients that may not be suitable for people with underlying medical conditions. You also need to take them within a certain time period for them to be effective in preventing a pregnancy. As such, you need to consult with a doctor when getting the morning-after pill.
When seeing a doctor in Singapore to get a prescription for emergency contraception pills, make sure to mention if you:
- Are allergic to the medication
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Are taking other medications (for chronic diseases or birth control)
- Have severe liver diseases
This information can help your doctor prescribe the right dosage of pills and type of emergency contraception for you.
One crucial thing to note is that only women can get an emergency contraception prescription in Singapore. You also need to be at least 16 years old.
Note that while most private clinics allow for walk-ins, not all of them may carry the pill or be familiar with women’s health. It’s best to call them first to check before dropping by.
2. There are side effects when taking the morning-after pill
Some morning-after pills contain a large dose of hormones that are also present in birth control pills.
Taking them can cause side effects such as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular vaginal bleeding
However, these side effects will normally wear off on their own within a few hours of taking the pill.
If your nausea gets so bad that you vomit within two to three hours of taking it, you probably would have vomited the medicine out. If this happens, call your doctor or medical provider immediately to find out if you should take another dose or come in for another prescription.
If you know that you’re prone to nausea, try to take the pill after eating or take anti-nausea medication an hour before taking the pill.
3. You can get the copper IUD if you don’t want to take the pill
The copper IUD is the most effective type of emergency contraception. It is 99% effective. However, note that the IUD has to be inserted within five days after sex to have a chance at preventing pregnancy.
Copper IUD insertion and removal
When you get a copper IUD inserted, it typically lasts three to five years and can be removed anytime you want. Besides being used as an emergency contraception method, the copper IUD is also a birth control method. While the pain level can vary with each person during insertion, removal is fairly easy and can be done any time by a medical professional.
After insertion of the copper IUD, make an appointment to return to your clinic a few months later. This is so your doctor can check if it’s still in place since there’s a risk of displacement within the first few months.
Copper IUD side effects
Like the morning-after pill, the copper IUD has its side effects. These side effects include cramps, light bleeding, a heavier menstrual flow and even spotting between periods. While the side effects may vary from person to person, they will usually go away after one year of using the copper IUD.
While a copper IUD is 99% effective, it increases the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy if you were to get pregnant with the IUD inserted.
No matter what you may have believed about emergency contraception before, know that it can be a safe and effective option for you. You can turn to emergency contraception whenever you need it, but remember not to rely on it as your main form of birth control.
If you’re unsure of what kind of emergency contraception you might need, or simply need some personal medical advice, consult with a doctor from DTAP Clinic directly through the MyDoc app! This is available for everyone in Singapore, and anyone with the MyDoc app can access it.