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Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs) contain hormones that reduce the risk of pregnancy when taken in two doses, with the first dose typically taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse or in case of contraceptive failure, and the second dose taken 12 hours after the first one. Studies have shown ECPs reduce the risk of pregnancy when started within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse, but the sooner the dosing begins, the more effective the treatment. Because ECPs have a five-day window of effectiveness and require multiple doses of pills, the popular term "morning- after pill" is misleading.
Almost every woman who needs emergency contraception can safely use ECPs. Although ECP's will not harm the fetus, women who are already pregnant should not use ECPs because this drug is ineffective at terminating established pregnancies. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): "Emergency contraceptive pills are not effective if the woman is pregnant; they act by delaying or inhibiting ovulation, and/or altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova (thereby inhibiting fertilization), and/or altering the endometrium (thereby inhibiting implantation)." A recent study found that most often, ECPs reduce the risk of pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation.
Using emergency contraceptive pills will not affect a woman's ability to become pregnant in the future. Emergency contraception prevents unplanned pregnancy, which is the best way to prevent the need for abortion; emergency contraception itself is not a form of abortion.
For more information:
Contact your doctor, or
GVSU Campus Health Center
The Consortium for Emergency Contraception
Page last modified September 14, 2010