I am pro-choice. It is a woman’s right to have an abortion! That is where I stand! Take it or leave it! But before getting to a point where one might have to consider abortion—there may be a time when your normal form of contraception fails—you forgot to take your contraceptive pill or the condom broke. Or you got carried away and had sex without any contraception.
Emergency contraception can be used in the days after unprotected sex, in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. This is not the same as terminating a pregnancy, also called an abortion. There are two methods of emergency contraception.
The ‘morning-after pill’, this works best when it is taken soon after unprotected sex—preferably within 24 hours, but certainly within 72 hours (three days) of having sex. If you are on HIV treatment, it is important that the person who provides you with the pill knows this. Several anti-HIV drugs interfere with the way the pill works.
If you are taking one or more of these anti-HIV drugs, you will need to take twice the normal dose of the emergency contraceptive pill. The pill is available in clinics and most pharmacies. Emergency contraceptive pills prevent about 85 percent of expected pregnancies. They work best if they are taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.
Emergency contraceptive pills work by stopping or delaying the release of an egg from a woman’s ovaries (ovulation). Emergency contraception pills do not cause an abortion. Emergency contraception pills do not cause harm if you accidentally take them when you are already pregnant.
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a more reliable method, especially if you are taking HIV treatment. This is the same device that is used for normal contraceptive use. To work as emergency contraception, it needs to be fitted within five days of either unprotected sex or ovulation. It can be removed after your next period, or you could leave it in to work as contraception in the future.
The IUD must be fitted by a specially trained doctor or nurse. The quickest place to find someone like this will be a sexual health clinics. A copper IUD is the most effective emergency contraceptive method (more than 99 percent)
The copper IUD mainly works by interfering with sperm movement, which stops them fertilising an egg. Sometimes it works by preventing implantation of a fertilised egg, but it has no effect after implantation. The copper IUD does not cause an abortion.
Remember, no method of emergency contraception is 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. The emergency contraceptive pill will not protect against pregnancy if you have unprotected sex again in the same menstrual cycle. You may need a follow-up pregnancy test to check if the emergency contraception pill has worked and you are not pregnant. And remember emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections!