Emergency contraception in Singapore isn’t something that’s commonly talked about. After all, it’s likely one of those things people want to learn more about only when they need it.

The morning-after pill is probably the most widely known form of emergency contraception. But when should you take it? Are there any side effects? And how often can you take it?

We have you covered as we answer all these questions and more in this article. 

Read about the myths vs facts surrounding emergency contraception in Singapore. 

What is the morning-after pill?

The morning-after pill is a type of emergency contraception. It is used to prevent pregnancy for women who have had unprotected sex – either they didn’t use birth control, they missed a birth control pill, they were sexually assaulted or their primary birth control method failed (e.g. condom broke during sex). It is only intended for backup contraception only and not as a primary method of birth control. It should be started as soon as possible after unprotected sex and within 120 hours for maximum effectiveness.

Morning-after pills contain either the hormone levonorgestrel (Postinor) or ulipristal acetate (ellaOne), both of which work to prevent or delay ovulation, block fertilization or keep a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

It’s important to note that the morning-after pill is very different from what many may know as the “abortion pill” (Mifepristone/RU-486)

There’s a tendency for individuals to be confused between both, either due to misinformation or a lack of awareness. To help you get a clearer understanding of the morning-after pill and the abortion pill, here’s a detailed comparison. 

Emergency contraception in Singapore: when should you take the morning-after pill? 

Type of PillMorning-After Pill Abortion Pill
What is it? It is an Emergency contraception that used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sexAlso known as medication abortion, the pill is in fact two medicines that are used to end an unwanted pregnancy. The first medicine is Mifepristone and the second medicine is Misoprostol. 
How does it work?It contains either levonorgestrel (Postinor) or ulipristal acetate (ellaOne), which works to prevent or delay ovulation, block fertilisation or keep a fertilised egg from implanting in the uterusMifepristone blocks the pregnancy hormone (progesterone). Without the pregnancy hormone, the lining of uterus breaks down and hence the pregnancy cannot continue

Misoprostol makes the womb contract, causing cramping, bleeding and the loss of pregnancy similar to a miscarriage
How effective is it?Has around 75%-90% chance of preventing pregnancy if taken correctly and taken within 48-72 hours Has 98% effectiveness rate at ending an unwanted pregnancy at an early pregnancy stage. The effectiveness decreases for each additional week of pregnancy
Does it cause an abortion?No, the pill only helps to prevent a pregnancy in the first place. It does not end a pregnancy that has implanted.Yes, the pill is meant to end an unwanted pregnancy. 
Is it safe?Yes. While it may have some uncomfortable side effects, it’s safe for nearly all women to use without having any serious complications. In general, yes. However, it’s important to note that taking this pill is considered a medical procedure, and there are risks associated with all medical procedures. In extremely rare cases, death can occur arising from serious complications. 
Infographic on some scenarios where you might need emergency contraception in Singapore
You may need emergency contraception if you were forced into unprotected sex.

Regardless of how careful you may be during sexual activity, accidents can still happen.

You can approach a medical professional for emergency contraception if you encounter any of the following scenarios: 

  • Condom broke during sex
  • Condom came off during sex
  • You or your partner forgot to use a condom
  • Your partner didn’t pull out in time
  • You forgot to take your birth control pill
  • Intrauterine Device (IUD) slipped out of place
  • You have a reason to think your birth control might not have worked
  • You were forced into having unprotected sex (This can be by anyone, including a boyfriend or husband)

Contrary to popular belief, the morning-after pill isn’t your only option for emergency contraception in Singapore. Learn more about the types of emergency contraception in Singapore, the costs and how to get them. 

What’s next after taking the morning-after pill?

Make sure you take the morning-after pill as soon as possible after unprotected sexual intercourse.

It’s completely normal if your next period comes one week earlier or later than it should. This is because the pill prevents or delays ovulation. Your period flow may also be heavier or lighter. 

In the event that your period is late for up to three weeks after taking the morning-after pill, it’s crucial that you take a pregnancy test or make an appointment with your doctor to get one done. Although the morning-after pill is an effective option for preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex, it still can fail even with correct use and it offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.

You may also have some irregular bleeding or spotting after taking the morning-after pill. If this lasts longer than a week, or if you have severe abdominal pain for three to five weeks after, see your doctor.

What are the side effects of taking the morning-after pill?

Many women have taken the morning-after pill without any serious complications. However, some women may still experience some or all of these side effects: 

  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Tenderness in breasts
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches

You should consult your doctor on the same day if you vomit within two hours after taking the pill. This is to assess whether a second dose is needed.

To avoid nausea, try to take the pill after eating or take anti-nausea medication an hour before taking the pill. 

Why you can only get emergency contraception in Singapore from a doctor

Woman seeing a doctor for emergency contraception in Singapore

You may have heard that emergency contraception is available over the counter in other countries. However, things are stricter here. In Singapore, you can get hold of emergency contraception only from a clinic or a hospital with an obstetrics and gynaecology department. 

A doctor is best equipped to advise you on the type of morning-after pill to take and the dosage. This is because the morning-after pill contains potent active ingredients that might not be suitable for some, especially those with certain medical conditions. 

It may also not be suitable for you if you have a drug allergy, liver problem, or if you have certain medical conditions or are taking certain medications. Such pills also require specific medical instructions when you take them for it to be effective. 

All in all, getting the morning-after pill from a doctor ensures you get the appropriate medical supervision.

Note that emergency contraception can only be prescribed to women, and you need to be at least 16 year old to get it. In addition, your partner can’t get the pill on your behalf. Bear in mind that while a doctor in Singapore can refuse to give you emergency contraception, he or she can only do so for medical reasons. 

If you go to a regular clinic, some types of emergency contraception may not be available. In such a scenario, you have the right to get a prescription or a referral for it, so that you can get it from another clinic or hospital. 

Emergency contraception: how often can the morning-after pill be taken? 

While you can take the pill as often as you need to, it shouldn’t be used as your main method for birth control as it isn’t as effective as the primary birth control methods and isn’t recommended for routine use. The morning-after pill should only be for emergencies or for a backup plan when the primary birth control method failed.

As the pill only works to prevent or delay ovulation, it doesn’t offer lasting protection from pregnancy. It’s still possible to get pregnant if you have unprotected sex in the days or weeks after taking the pill. 

Taking the pill often can also cause your periods to be irregular, or cause frequent bleeding. However, it won’t affect your long-term fertility. 

If you want to learn more about emergency contraception in Singapore, or simply need some personal medical advice, you can chat with the doctors from DTAP Clinic through the MyDoc app. 

Their doctors focus on men’s health, women’s health, sexual health and many other medical issues. By registering for a MyDoc account and downloading the app, you’ll be able to consult with one of DTAP Clinic’s doctors.

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