The world of contraception and birth control can be a confusing one – from condoms and birth control pills to birth control patches and emergency contraception, it is no surprise that so many people remain uninformed of the various options available. In this article, we tackle the question of emergency contraception: how it works, what are some myths and misconceptions, and when you might want to consider using it. Consider this your crash course on emergency contraception!
What exactly is emergency contraception?
Emergency contraception is a form of birth control taken after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy from occurring. There are two main forms of emergency contraception: pills, and the copper intrauterine device (IUD). This article will focus on the pill, which is a more accessible and non-invasive form of emergency contraception. You may have heard of the emergency pill from its other common names, such as “the morning-after pill” or “Plan B”.
There are 2 brands of emergency contraception available in Singapore. The first, which contains levonorgestrel, can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex, while the second, which contains ulipristal acetate, can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness of the pill is time-sensitive. This means that the sooner you take it, the more effective it will be. Levonorgestrel pills are 95% effective if taken within the first 24 hours after sex, but their effectiveness drops to 58% if taken 48 – 72 hours after sex. Ulipristal acetate pills are 85% effective during the 5 days after sex, although the sooner you take it, the better.
Unlike other countries, where emergency contraception can be bought over the counter at drugstores and pharmacies, a doctor’s prescription is required to obtain emergency contraception in Singapore.
But …. How exactly does emergency contraception work?
We get it – the notion of a pill that somehow stops unwanted pregnancies seems almost magical. You might be wondering – how exactly does it work?
The first type of pill uses Levonorgestrel, a synthetic form of the naturally-occurring progesterone. It prevents or delays ovulation – the process during which an egg is released from the ovary. If an egg isn’t released, fertilization cannot occur, and thus, pregnancy cannot happen.
The second type of pill is a ulipristal acetate pill and its mechanism of action is slightly different from Levonorgestrel, it essentially achieves the same outcome: preventing or delaying ovulation. Thus, fertilization cannot occur, and so pregnancy can’t happen.
Both pills’ mechanism of action is to prevent ovulation. Thus, they will not be effective if you are already pregnant. Remember, these pills act as emergency contraception, they are NOT ‘abortion pills’.
Are there side effects of using emergency contraception?
While emergency contraception has not been shown to cause serious complications, there are a few side effects that may occur in the short term. Some of these include:
- Irregular bleeding or spotting after taking emergency contraception which clears up on its own
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Cramping 1 to 2 days after taking emergency contraception
However, these side effects are temporary, and should clear up on their own within a few days.
So .., when should I be using emergency contraception?
There are a number of situations where you might consider taking emergency contraception in order to prevent an unwanted pregnancy.
1 – You had unprotected sex.
Having unprotected sex puts you at risk of pregnancy, even if your sexual partner(s) used the withdrawal method.
2 – Your primary form of birth control failed.
For example, the condom broke or slipped off during sex, you missed your birth control pill, or your birth control patch fell off. If your primary form of birth control fails, and you had unprotected sex, you are at risk of pregnancy. Taking emergency contraception acts as a backup form of contraception to prevent pregnancy.
It’s important to note that emergency contraception, as the name suggests, is meant to be used in emergencies, and not as a regular form of birth control. Due to the lack of research on the effects of taking emergency contraception regularly, the health risks are unclear. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has noted that continued use of hormonal emergency contraception results in the exposure to higher total levels of hormones as compared to using regular birth control. Additionally, frequent use of emergency contraception might also result in more adverse side effects, such as irregular bleeding.
If you find yourself using emergency contraception 2-3 times a month, it is recommended that you consider switching to regular birth control. With experienced medical professionals and extensive options, Ease is a judgement-free zone for you to explore and figure out which birth control option is right for you. Speak to a doctor online, get advise, and get your birth control delivered to your doorstep within 4hrs.
Help! Where can I get emergency contraception in Singapore?
There are two main ways to get emergency contraception in Singapore, and both involve speaking to a doctor and obtaining a prescription.
First, you can visit a clinic in-person and speak to a doctor during your consultation. Not all clinics will carry emergency contraception, so you might want to call ahead of time to check. Additionally, the person taking the emergency contraception must see the doctor to get a prescription, which means that your partner cannot obtain the emergency pill on your behalf.
Obtaining emergency contraception can be a nerve-wrecking process – you may be feeling anxious about the risk of an unwanted pregnancy, or if it’s your first time, you may be unfamiliar with the process. This is why a judgement-free zone is so key to a smooth and comfortable experience. Unfortunately, women across Singapore have reported mixed experiences consulting doctors at clinics, ranging from positive and comfortable to negative and judgmental. Visiting a clinic in-person also entails consultation fees, the cost of travelling, and the cost of medication itself, which can range from $40 to $90 per pill.
The second way to obtain emergency contraception is through telemedicine platforms such as Ease. With Ease, you can obtain emergency contraception from the comfort of your home. The process is relatively straightforward. You fill up a health questionnaire and schedule a teleconsultation with a doctor. The questionnaire contains questions which you would typically be asked at a physical consultation, and the scheduling system allows you to pick an appointment at your own convenience – which means no queueing or waiting times!
During your teleconsultation, your doctor will use your questionnaire responses to address topics or concerns specific to your needs, and you can also ask follow-up questions. Once the consultation is over and your prescription has been issued, Ease will dispense, pack, and deliver your emergency contraception within 4 hours from your appointment. The whole process, from questionnaire to delivery, should take no more than 5 hours. With Ease, the total cost of getting emergency contraception starts from $45, (which includes the doctor’s consultation, medication and delivery).
Additionally, Ease is committed to accompanying you through the process of taking care of your sexual health. Even after receiving your medication, you will have access to unlimited Care Team support which means you can ask questions and request further information from the care team staff and they will support you 7-days a week. If you require convenience, or would prefer to obtain your emergency contraception in a safe space, Ease is the platform for you.
The Crux of it All
Obtaining emergency contraception doesn’t have to be an uncomfortable or anxiety-inducing process. By understanding how emergency contraception works, the associated side-effects, and the process of obtaining it in Singapore, you will be better prepared to handle any emergencies that may arise in the future.
Remember, when it comes to your health, knowledge is key. Don’t be afraid to seek out medical advice or ask questions if you have any concerns. If you’d like to find out more about other forms of birth control, or even hear the experiences of other women, check out Ease’s community, where you can participate in events, refer to various resources, and access a variety of blog articles.
“Emergency Contraception.” Accessed October 20, 2021. https://www.acog.org/en/womens-health/faqs/emergency-contraception.
“Emergency Contraception.” Accessed October 20, 2021. https://www.acog.org/en/clinical/clinical-guidance/practice-bulletin/articles/2015/09/emergency-contraception.
“Morning After Pill Effectiveness | LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor UK.” Accessed October 20, 2021. https://onlinedoctor.lloydspharmacy.com/uk/contraception-advice/how-effective-is-the-morning-after-pill.
Practitioners, The Royal Australian College of General. “RACGP – Ulipristal Acetate: An Update for Australian GPs.” Accessed October 20, 2021. https://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2017/may/ulipristal-acetate-an-update-for-australian-gps/.