A contraceptive used after the act, usually as a result of the failure of the primary means of contraception. They are best used within 24 hours, but may be used up to 72 hours after the act. They are sometimes also known as morning after pills.

Note that emergency contraceptives are not the same as an abortion. Emergency contraceptives work by preventing two things:

These are how normal contraceptives work. Barrier methods like condoms work by preventing fertilisation, while other techniques like the pill work by preventing implantation. In order for it to be considered an abortion, the process must take place after implantation.

There are several emergency contraceptive approaches:

  • RU486: RU486 is the infamous abortion pill. However, if taken during the first 72 hours, it functions as emergency contraceptive.
  • The Yuzpe method: Two high-dose tablets of oestrogen and progesterone are taken. The second is taken 12 hours after the first. Problem is that this frequently induces nausea, which is a royal pain since you have to keep the tablets in there, so they are frequently taken with anti-vomiting drugs.
  • So called "Plan B": Two high doses of progesterone only (in the levenorgestrone form), again, given 12 hours apart. Does not cause nausea, and is generally regarded as better than the Yuzpe method.
Plan B is regarded as safe, even if implantation has occurred, no damage is done to the foetus. In many countries, emergency contraceptives are available over the counter.

However, in some countries, such as Australia, they aren't. This is verging on the ridiculous, since the ingredients of the emergency contraceptives is the same as the normal contraceptive pill, just in much higher doses. As a result, for say Plan B, the doctor gives a prescription for 50 contraceptive pills. The patient takes 25 pills at first, then the other 25 12 hours later. This freaks people out ("Oh my God! This can't be safe! I have to take 25 tablets!!"), but apparently is perfectly safe.

Disclaimer: I am not advocating using emergency contraceptives. In fact, I do not advocate sexual activity outside of marriage. This node is for information only, and should not be taken as an endorsement of the use of emergency contraceptives.

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