When I was working in a walk-in clinic yesterday evening, I saw a number of people who needed the ‘morning after pill’ or hormonal emergency contraception (EHC).
From my discussions it was clear people wanting to use it knew very little about how it worked.
So I thought this might be a good topic for discussion here.
There are two types of hormonal emergency contraception; one which has to be taken within three days of unprotected sex, and the other within five days.
Both work in similar ways. They delay the release of the egg from the ovary - ovulation.
This is important because sperm survive in the female reproductive system for up to 7 days!
This means that if you ovulate within 7 days after having unprotected sex then there may be sperm ready to fertilise that egg.
So the longer the release of the egg is delayed, the less likely it is that there are sperm capable of fertilising an egg.
This is one of the reasons why we ask in clinic - “When was your last period?”, as this helps to predict when you are likely to ovulate.
Emergency contraception is a complex topic - let me know if you have specific questions. I’d be happy to help.