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7 emergency contraception myths, answered by the FPA

17th September 2014
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It’s Sexual Health Week, and the Family Planning Association is on a mission to clear up the myths that still surround this vaguely taboo subject.

Some of the things that people believe when it comes to their sexual health are more than a little bit worrying. One person we spoke to, for example, was under the impression that it’s impossible to get Chlamydia if you’re over the age of 30.

Newsflash: definitely not true.

When it comes to emergency contraception, too, there are a lot of half truths flying around.

The FPA collected some of them with the hashtag #mythbust yesterday, before setting us straight with the correct answers. Here’s what you need to know...

“Emergency contraception is just a pill.”

There are three methods of emergency contraception, two of which are pills: Levonelle and ellaOne.

There is also the emergency IUD, which is a small plastic and copper device that can be fitted into your uterus for up to five days after unprotected sex. If you choose, you can keep the IUD as your chosen method of contraception for five or ten years.

“59% of 16-24 year olds think that emergency contraception has to be used within 24 hours of unprotected sex.”

The FPA is on a mission to weed out the use of the term “morning after pill”, as it propagates the notion that, firstly, the only option for emergency contraception is a pill, and secondly, because it puts women off taking the emergency contraceptive pill if more than a day passes.

In fact, you have five days in which the emergency pill ellaOne or the emergency IUD will still be effective, and three days if you take Levonelle – so if you can’t get to a pharmacist or doctor within a day of unprotected sex, you shouldn’t worry.

"You need permission to get emergency contraception under 16."

This is not true – at a doctor or pharmacist you should be able to find emergency contraception at any age. In some areas you will be able to get emergency contraception for free, whilst in others you may have to pay (around £20.)

“You can’t use emergency contraceptive pills more than once in the same menstrual cycle.”

There is more truth to this myth than there is to most, but it’s still not a fully correct assumption. Levonelle is fine to take more than once during the same menstrual cycle (although you shouldn’t use it as a regular method of contraception), but ellaOne should not be used more than once, and you also shouldn’t take ellaOne if you’ve already taken Levonelle during the same cycle.

“Emergency contraception is like an abortion.”

Not true. Whilst an abortion works to end an existing pregnancy, emergency contraception prevents a pregnancy beginning in the first place.

“People will think that I’ve been irresponsible.”

Remember that unprotected sex can mean that the condom has split or that you’ve simply missed a pill, rather than that you’ve done anything wrong. Health professionals know this, and they aren’t going to judge you for seeking out emergency contraception. Besides, surely the responsible thing to do is deal with it, as you are doing, rather than ignoring the situation?

“If I use emergency hormonal contraception too often I’ll become infertile.”

There is no basis to this statement at all.

For more information visit the FPA here.

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