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Dispelling the myths about emergency contraception

By May 31, 2011News

June 2011

Now that emergency contraception is available from pharmacies it's time to break down some of the other barriers to this important emergency intervention for women and girl, according to the Irish Family Planning Association.

Glass and pill imageFour months ago the Irish Medicines Board granted over-the-counter status to emergency contraceptive pills. Making emergency contraception directly available directly from pharmacies without a doctor’s prescription removed some significant barriers to accessing emergency contraceptive pills. Women and girls can now access emergency contraception quicker and cheaper.

IFPA Dr Medical Director Caitriona Henchion said: “Making the emergency contraception pill available over the counter in all pharmacies has greatly improved access to this important emergency intervention for women and girls. We know that quicker access reduces the risk of unplanned pregnancy. Now we need to focus on some of the other barriers – lack of information and misconceptions – to ensure that women and girls don't miss out on this important second chance to prevent pregnancy when a regular method has failed, no method was used or sex was forced.

"There are a lot of myths about emergency contraception and many women are still confused about how emergency contraception works and how it should be used. One of the most significant areas of uncertainty is when can it be taken. The emergency contraceptive pill can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected sex . However, the sooner emergency contraception is taken the more effective it is – the success rate reducing from 95% in the first 24 hours to 58% by the third day. Access to emergency contraception directly from a pharmacy reduces delay, therefore reducing the risk of unplanned pregnancy.

"Dispelling myths and misconceptions about emergency contraception will ensure that access to this important second-chance interviention is available to even more women and girls."

The IFPA is continuing to offer high-quality emergency contraception services at its two clinics in Dublin city centre and Tallaght. A walk-in service is being provided at both clinics at a cost of €30. See more.

Five Myths & Facts about the Emergency Contraceptive Pill:

  • MYTH: The emergency contraceptive pill can only be taken the “morning after” unprotected sex.

FACT: The emergency contraceptive pill can be used up to 72 hours after unprotected sex but is more effective the sooner they are taken. Efficacy is 95% if taken within the first 24 hours, 85% if taken between 25 and 48 hours and 58% if taken between 49 and 72 hours.

  • MYTH: The emergency contraceptive pill can only be taken three times over a woman’s lifetime.

FACT: This is one of the most common myths about the emergency contraceptive pill and is simply not true. The emergency contraceptive pill is made out of the same hormone as regular contraception and is gone from the body within 72 hours. Frequent use of the emergency contraceptive pill is not recommended because it is not as effective as regular contraception but repeated use poses no health risks and has no effect on future fertility.

  • MYTH: The emergency contraceptive pill causes an abortion.

FACT: The emergency contraceptive pill cannot cause an abortion, it prevents pregnancy. The emergency contraceptive pill works by preventing or delaying ovulation and has no effect on a pregnancy if a woman is already pregnant when the emergency contraceptive pill is taken.

  • MYTH: Only teenage girls use the emergency contraceptive pill.

FACT: Women of all ages use the emergency contraceptive pill as a safe and effective way of preventing an unwanted pregnancy when a regular method fails (e.g. condom burst, missed pill or late start to a new cycle of pills), when no contraception was used or when sex is forced. A survey conducted by IFPA in 2009 found that 52% of women accessing emergency contraceptive pill services in IFPA clinics were over the age of 22.

  • MYTH: The emergency contraceptive pill encourages women and girls to have unprotected sex and to stop using regular methods of contraception

FACT: Research studies from around the world have consistently found that increased access to emergency contraception does not result in an increase in unprotected sex or a decrease in regular contraceptive use.