Postcoital contraception (PC) is a birth control method that is used shortly after sexual intercourse to make sure that the woman won’t get pregnant.
There are a few reasons for which the decision to use the above method is taken. The most common ones are unprotected sex or a failure of the already used birth control measures like a broken condom.
However, there are also more serious and unfortunate cases in which postcoital contraception is not just an option, but according to some people it should be offered without a second thought. These are, of course, the cases of rape victims.
The most common form of PC comes in the form of pills. There are three different types of pills at the moment. The first type consists of pills that contain both estrogen and progestin. The second type includes the pills that only have progestin, namely levonorgestrel, a hormone created in medical labs to be used as a birth control drug. This hormone does not allow the ovulation phase to take place, thus making pregnancy impossible. The final type contains the antiprogestin pills.
What most people want to know for sure is the success rate of the aforementioned pills. According to a highly reputable American journal, The American Family Physician, PC pills have an effectiveness rate of around 75%, a number that keeps increasing as the years go by. It is important to clarify this percentage since it becomes an issue of misconception quite frequently.
Let’s say 1.000 women have unprotected sex. Of these 1.000, around 80 would become pregnant. The 75% effectiveness rate reduces the latter number by three quarters. So, after having taken the pill, only 20 out of these 1.000 would get pregnant.
The side effects that appear after taking one of the above pills have been well documented since there are already a great number of women who have used PC drugs. The most common one is nausea which may lead to vomiting, even though it is highly unlikely to occur. Rare ones include headaches, feeling of dizziness and fatigue, and also abdominal pain. However, even the rarest of all cases have their side effects disappear 24 hours after the administration of the pill.
Once again, medicine offers us an easy to control a controversial and very sensitive issue, pregnancy. Every society has to acknowledge that it is the right of every woman to be able to choose if and when she wants to use this method to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.