health

9 things every woman needs to know about the 'morning after pill'.

Image via MTV.

I’m going to put my hand up and say I’ve had the “morning after pill”. The experience of walking into the pharmacy, having to fill out a form, and then feeling an incredible sense of shame and guilt afterwards — it still haunts me.

There are many misconceptions about the “morning after pill”. For one, that name is incorrect — it’s actually called emergency contraception.

RELATED: A 20-year-old woman asks for the morning-after pill. The pharmacist says no

According to Christina Inness, a family planning nurse from Family Planning Victoria, there are a few reasons for the existence of these myths.

“I think some of it is that people are afraid of the side effects of it, and that they think it will effect their fertility, and that it is an abortion pill. There are also taboos around taking it, as people think having the option of having emergency contraception can encourage unprotected sex. Evidence shows that this is completely incorrect.”

The emergency contraceptive pill (Image via iStock)

So — that's one myth busted. Here are some other common questions and misunderstandings surrounding emergency contraception. To say this information has made me angry that I've felt so much shame from my experience for so long is an understatement.

1. What is it exactly?

"Emergency contraceptive pills delay and prevent ovulation. The pill has become much more simple in recent years, a lot easier to take, in terms of side effects. It is now manufactured as one hormone (in Australia), which is Progestin, a synthetic hormone which your body naturally has," Christina explains.

2. Is it an abortion pill?

This is important: emergency contraception is not an abortion pill. "Because there is a pill you can take that induces a miscarriage, emergency contraception has somehow become confused with being an abortion pill. People don't realise how it works - it is a common misconception," Christina says.

RELATED: “Why I talk about my abortion.”

3. Do you have to answer those questions at the chemist?

(Image via The Pill)
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If you have a script, then no you don't. If you'd prefer to talk to your doctor privately about emergency contraception, rather than to a pharmacist in the chemist, then you can. If you don't live in close proximity to a chemist, then you can get an advance supply of emergency contraception and keep it at home in case you need it. You can also access emergency contraception at some health centres.

4. When do you need to take it?

In order to ensure the emergency contraceptive pill's effectiveness, you need to take it within 72 hours of having unprotected sex — but less than 24 hours is best.

RELATED: Is there any truth to these contraception myths?

5. What are your options for emergency contraception?

The pill version, which is more common and well-known, is 85 per cent effective. However, you might not realise  there's a second, more effective, option: having the copper  intrauterine device (IUD) inserted after having unprotected sex. This method is 99 per cent effective. Copper IUDs work 120 hours after having unprotected sex and are the most effective form of emergency contraception.

IUDs are inserted into the uterus – a procedure which some women may find uncomfortable. IUDs can last up to ten years and are immediately reversible after being removed. The copper IUD works by blocking sperm from reaching the egg.

You can read more about the IUD here.

Here are some different options to consider [post continues after gallery]

6. How often are you allowed to take emergency contraception?

There's a common misconception that you can't take emergency contraception multiple times. Christina informs me that this is completely untrue, and it is safe to take the pill multiple times in one cycle of your period.

7. Does it affect fertility?

According to Christina, there are no known long-term health issues or effects on fertility from taking emergency contraception.

8. What are the side effects of taking it?

The common side effects from taking emergency contraception "are mainly hormonal side effects, like having a late period," Christina explains.

"People who take emergency contraception may find that they get headaches as well. Feeling nauseous after taking emergency contraception happens to less than one per cent of people."

RELATED: Dear pharmacists: this is how you should sell the morning after pill

9. How much does it cost?

The emergency contraception available at pharmacies costs $20 - $30, and copper IUDs cost around $150.

Do you think there's enough education about contraception?

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