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close this bookWhere Women Have No Doctor - A Health Guide for Women (Hesperian Foundation, 1997, 600 p.)
close this folderChapter 13: Family Planning
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBenefits of Family Planning
View the documentIs Family Planning Safe?
View the documentChoosing to Use Family Planning
Open this folder and view contentsChoosing a Family Planning Method
Open this folder and view contentsBarrier Methods of Family Planning
Open this folder and view contentsHormonal Methods of Family Planning hormones
Open this folder and view contentsIntra-Uterine Devices (Devices that go into the womb)
Open this folder and view contentsNatural Methods of Family Planning
View the documentTraditional and Home Methods to Prevent Pregnancy
View the documentPermanent Methods of Family Planning
View the documentEmergency Methods of Family Planning
View the documentChoosing the Best Method
View the documentWorking for Change

Emergency Methods of Family Planning

Emergency methods are ways for women to avoid pregnancy after having unprotected sex. These methods prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb wall. They are only effective if used soon after having sex.

Emergency methods are safe and effective. But they are not as effective as consistent use of the other family planning methods discussed in this chapter and they can cause unpleasant side effects.

EMERGENCY PILLS

The pills used for emergency family planning are the same combined birth control pills that some women take each day. But in emergencies, you take a much higher dose for a short time. You must take the pills within 3 days (72 hours) of having unprotected sex. The pills will not work if you are pregnant from having sex more than 3 days earlier.


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¨ Emergency family planning methods should not be used instead of other methods.

How to take Emergency Pills:

Low dose pills. Take 4 low-dose birth control pills, which contain 35 mcg of the estrogen called ethinyl estradiol. Then take 4 more tablets 12 hours after the first dose. Some common brands are Brevicon 1 + 35, Lo-Femenal, Lo-Ovral, Microgynon 30, Microvlar, Neocon, Nordette, Ortho-Novum 1/35, 1/50.

OR

High dose pills. Take 2 high-dose birth control pills, which contain 50 mcg of the estrogen called ethinyl estradiol. Then take 2 more tablets 12 hours after the first dose. Some common brands are Ovral, Femenal, Primovlar, Norlestrin, Ovcon 50, Nordiol, Eugynon, and Neogynon.

Emergency pills can make you have headaches or feel nauseous. Try eating something at the same time you take the pills and, if possible, take a medicine that will keep you from vomiting. If you vomit within 3 hours of taking the pills, you should take them again.

Until your next monthly bleeding, you should use a barrier method of family planning, like condoms, or not have sex. After your monthly bleeding, you can use any family planning method you choose.

Your next monthly bleeding should begin in about 2 weeks. If it does not, you may have become pregnant despite the emergency family planning. You should continue to use a barrier method of family planning until you know for sure.

OTHER EMERGENCY METHODS

Mini pills (progestin only pills). These pills contain no estrogen, so they cause less nausea than combined birth control pills. They only work if taken within 2 days (48 hours) of having unprotected sex.

· Take 20 mini pills followed by 20 more pills 12 hours after the first dose.


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Mifepristone, also known as RU 486 or the ‘French Pill’, causes less nausea and vomiting than the other emergency pills.

· Take 600 mg within 3 days of having unprotected sex. Take this amount only once.


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IUD (Intra-Uterine Device): An IUD can also keep the egg from attaching to the womb wall.


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· The IUD must be inserted by a specially trained health worker within 5 days after having unprotected sex. The IUD can be kept in and continue to protect you from pregnancy for up to 10 years. Do not have an IUD inserted if you are at risk of having an STD.


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New methods of family planning

The following new methods of family planning are available or are being developed. They may only be available in some places and may be expensive. We include them here because the more women know about new methods and ask for them, the more likely it is that the methods will become available for everyone and perhaps be less costly. The more methods there are, the more likely it is that every woman who wants to prevent pregnancy will be able to find a method that suits her needs.

1. Plastic condoms are made from very fine polyurethane. They are thinner than latex condoms and allow for more feeling. They are less likely to be damaged by heat or oils.

2. Once-a-week birth control pills work by changing a woman’s natural balance of estrogen, which prevents a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb wall. The once-a-week pill is less effective than regular daily birth control pills at preventing pregnancy. Little is known about its side effects.

3. Vaginal rings slowly release progestin into a woman’s vagina. Vaginal rings come in only one size and a woman can put one in herself. They last from 3 months to a year. After taking the ring out, fertility returns within 24 hours.

If you are offered a new method of family planning, be sure to discuss any concerns you have before choosing that method. Make sure you have all the information you need to make a good choice, and that you are not being pressured into using a method that is not right for you.