Are emergency pills safe?

Dear Doctor, My girlfriend has been taking emergency pills for more than a year. She takes three tablets of Pilplan after sex and three more after 10 hours. Is there any problem with this?

Dear Doctor,

My girlfriend has been taking emergency pills for more than a year. She takes three tablets of Pilplan after sex and three more after 10 hours. Is there any problem with this?

Mugabo

Dear Mugabo,

Emergency contraceptive pills are designed to be taken in emergency situations like after rape or when one has unplanned sex. But they are not supposed to be taken very regularly.

These pills contain progesterone in varying amount alone or in combination with estrogen.

They are effective when taken within 5 days of unprotected sex, because sperm can remain viable up to 5 days within the body. But the sooner the better. These pills are not 100% effective. They prevent ovulation but if it has already occurred, it does nothing to remove or destroy the ovum, hence high chances of fertilization if the sperm meets the ovum. After 3 weeks of taking these pills, it is advisable to undergo tests to check for pregnancy.

These pills should be taken as prescribed. Taken in higher doses, efficacy does not increase but risk of side effects increases. The side effects can occur in form of nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps. Menstrual cycle can be delayed or disrupted due to these pills. Moreover risk of ectopic pregnancy(fertilized ovum being implanted outside uterus) increases with these pills.

If one needs pills to be taken on a regular basis, a doctor should be consulted for use of other  regular pills. Other alternate methods of contraception can also be considered.

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