Contraception
 
Morning-after pill / ECP
 
What is it?
•    The ECP (emergency contraceptive pill) is an emergency contraceptive method; it is not designed to replace a regular, reliable method. It is a hormonal contraceptive method.
•    The ECP can be taken after unprotected intercourse or if a usual contraceptive method fails (e.g. a broken condom).
•    The ECP can be obtained at a CLSC, medical clinic, pharmacy, hospital emergency ward, or from some school nurses or a physician or nurse at certain community organizations such as the Centre de santé des femmes.

 
How does it work?
•    The high doses of hormones act in three ways: like the contraceptive Pill, they prevent ovulation, thin the endometrium thereby preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg, and thicken the cervical mucous, making it difficult for sperm to pass into the cervix.
•    The ECP is most effective when taken within 24 hours of high-risk sexual activity. However, it may be taken up to five days following unprotected sex. What’s important to keep in mind is that the sooner it is taken, the more effective it is.
•    The emergency contraceptive pill will not, however, end a pregnancy from a previous sexual encounter nor will it prevent conception later in the cycle.

 
How is it used?
•    It must be taken in 1 or 2 doses (as prescribed by a physician): the first dose as soon as possible and the second 12 hours later.
•    It may cause nausea and vomiting. To avoid this, an antinauseant may be taken at the same time or 30 minutes before taking the ECP. Consult your pharmacist.

 
Advantages

•    The emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is a simple method with little risk to your health.
•    It is useful in cases of unprotected sex but should not be used as a regular birth control method.
•    It is useful when another birth control method fails, i.e. a broken condom or forgotten birth control pill.
•    It is used as an emergency method for sexual agressions victims.
•    It is a simple and safe way to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

 
Disadvantages
•    It does not protect against the transmission of STIs or HIV.
•    It can alter the menstrual cycle: periods may occur sooner or later than usual.
•    It can cause nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, bloating and abdominal cramps.
•    It can also cause vaginal discharge or irregular bleeding.

 
Cost and effectiveness
•    Cost: $30 to $40. Covered by public and private insurance plans. A free consultation at the pharmacy is available to anyone with a RAMQ card. To obtain the ECP free of charge, contact Info-Santé and they may direct you to a school or CLSC nurse in your region.
•    Effectiveness: approximately 95% if taken within 24 hours; effectiveness may decrease to 58% after 72 hours.

 
Precautions
Exceptional method not to be used on a regular basis.
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