Sex & Relationships

ECP (Emergency Contraceptive Pills) – Facts, Types, Benefits, Disadvantages and Side Effects

ECP - prevent pregnancy

Since the second we are born, our parents dream about us birthing their grandchildren. Such are Indian families. Here, babies are God’s true blessings in the disguise of a tiny human. And so the news of an anticipated pregnancy is a matter of celebration in most households. Sometimes, pregnancy is rather an unexpected phenomenon than a miracle. For times when you are not in the place to accept an unplanned pregnancy, ECP is your answer.

ECP or Emergency Contraceptive Pill is exactly what it sounds. It is a birth control pill to be taken by women after unprotected sex or if the used birth control does not work.

This article contains every information about ECP pills that you may need to know.

What is ‘ECP’?

ECP (Emergency Contraceptive Pill) is a type of birth control method. It is also popularly known as the morning-after pill. It is different from other forms of birth control because it is used during emergencies.

The following are considered emergencies in the case of ECP tablet usage, If:

  • A woman had been raped or sexually assaulted.
  • The barrier protection (condom) broke while intercourse.
  • The condom slipped during intercourse.
  • The couple did not use any kind of protection during sex.
  • A woman has missed her birth control pills in the recent past, 2 or 3 times.

It can be used by a woman when she has had unprotected vaginal sex or when the current birth control method has somehow failed.

Facts About Emergency Contraceptive Pills

  • The success rate of the ECP tablet’s effectiveness is nearly 95%.
  • There is no medical restriction on the use of ECP.
  • ECP tablets are safe except for a few side-effects.
  • Prescriptions are not necessary to buy an ECP.
  • The best results of an ECP are yielded within 72 hours (3 days) after having intercourse.

Who Can Take ECP?

These tablets are considered safe for consumption for most females. These pills are safe and do not affect a woman’s health if taken for a short time. Repeated use of ECP pills may cause health issues.

If you are not pregnant and have had unprotected vagina-penis intercourse, you can take an ECP.

What Are The Types Of ECP?

Emergency contraception is available in 2 types –

  • ECP tablets – ECP tablet is the A1 emergency birth control. These pills are further categorized into 2 forms:
    1. With only one hormone (progestin)
    2. With two hormones (progestin and estrogen)
  • IUD – IUD is a barrier device that is inserted inside a woman’s vagina to block the passage of sperms. A copper IUD can be used as an emergency barrier. It is effective if implanted within 7 days after unprotected vaginal sex.

When Can ECP Pills Be Taken?

ECP pills are emergency contraception pills. These tablets are used to avoid unwanted pregnancy and not terminate one. Any woman or girl who is of reproductive age and has had unprotected vagina-penis sex is fit to take these tablets.

If a woman is already pregnant, she should not consume ECP. ECPs are ineffective in an already initiated pregnancy. These pills can only work toward preventing pregnancy.

The pill is to be ingested with water as quickly as possible after intercourse.

Learn about these 5-Perfect backup plans and how to avoid pregnancy after sex?

Can I Use ECP Pills As My Regular Birth Control?

No. ECP tablets do not function as your otherwise normal birth control. It is because these medicines are comparatively harsh on your body. Overall, they are found safe but if consumed regularly, they can cause health problems.

Emergency contraception is not your regular type. Experts advise that ECP pills should be taken strictly in urgent circumstances. They are not intended to be used repeatedly.

ECP also does not offer any kind of protection from sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

There are several other ways on how to avoid pregnancy after sex, generally. These include condoms (both for males and females), IUDs, regular birth control pills, and more.

How Does Emergency Contraceptive Pills Work?

ECP is a specially formulated pill that consists of specific hormones to prevent pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a stepwise process. For a woman to be pregnant, a man’s sperms have to swim up inside a woman’s body and meet with her eggs. The sperms and eggs further result in fertilization that leads to the development of an embryo.

Before this process can begin, a woman’s eggs should be released and sent down to the uterus where they can meet the sperm. The eggs are released from the ovaries monthly. This process is known as Ovulating.

ECP hampers the process of ovulation. It either prevents ovulation or delays it.

In short, these pills ensure that the eggs from a woman’s ovaries are not released. Thus, they disrupt the process of fertilization and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

These tablets are credible if used properly within the given time frame.

How Effective Is An ECP?

The purpose of an ECP is to reduce your chances of getting pregnant. This is why the timing of pill consumption is of importance.

If you consume a pill within 24 hours, your odds of getting pregnant are the lowest. ECPs work most successfully if taken at the earliest.

Emergency Contraceptive tablets are still very effective after intercourse if used within 72 hours. Some tablets can be taken for as long as 5 days after sex.

You should also avoid taking additional birth control pills along with this tablet, this combination can make you sick.

Who Should Avoid ECP Pills?

If a woman has already found out about her pregnancy, she should not consume ECP.

Emergency contraceptive pills are not similar to medical abortion pills. They work differently and are effective only when there are chances of pregnancy but the pregnancy has not happened yet.

If there is an implanted pregnancy already, ECP will not work.

Note: Do not take Emergency contraception if you are already pregnant, it is not an abortion pill. However, if you accidentally take the pill while pregnant, there is nothing to worry about as this tablet does not harm the fetus.

To learn about how to avoid your pregnancy through Natural contraceptive methods, read this article.

Are There Any Side-Effects?

Yes, ECP pills too have moderate side-effects. These include:

  • Headache
  • Changes in the menstrual cycle and flow
  • Nausea
  • Spotting
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen area
  • Tiredness
  • Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Bleeding between periods
side effects of ECP

Moderate Side Effects of ECP

If the above-given side effects last longer than 2-3 days and are unbearable, you should consult your healthcare provider immediately.

If you vomit within 2 hours after taking the pill, consult your doctor or pharmacist as you may need to take another pill.

What To Do After Taking ECP?

You can expect your periods to arrive in a time frame of 1-3 weeks after the pills were ingested. If you do not get your menstruation by then, you should visit your gynecologist.

You and your partner can continue your sexual activities with other forms of birth control. It is suggested that you use other forms of contraceptives. Condoms are highly recommended since they also protect against STDs. If you were using birth control pills and had missed some, you can start a new pack after the ECP.

Please note that if you have unprotected vaginal sex after consuming ECP, you may still get pregnant. In this case, other protection methods should opt.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of ECP?

Like a coin has two sides, emergency contraceptive pills, too, have two sides – the good and bad. There are specific demerits to the tablet. These include:



  • Easily available and easy to consume.
  • Have side-effects.
  • Some ECPs do not need a prescription.
  • Do not protect from STDs.
  • Do not affect pregnancy in the future.
  • Is less effective on people who are obese.
  • Intervention from partners, family, or healthcare provider is not necessary.
  • Have to consume within 5 days.


What If I Learn About ECP After 3 Days Of Sex?

If you have had unprotected sex 3 days ago and you are learning about the option of ECP just now, you can still seek help. In this case, there are chances that an emergency contraceptive tablet may not work. However, you can implant an emergency IUD barrier.

IUD barriers can be implanted up to 7 days after the day of unprotected vagina-penis sexual activity.

You can also get information here on how to avoid pregnancy after sex with 5-perfect backup plans.

The Concluding Note

ECP is a boon for women and girls everywhere who are at risk of unwanted pregnancies. Not only is this form of birth control available instantly, but it is also medically safe.

Another big benefactor is the fact that a woman does not require intervention from anyone. In Indian societies, such intervention may deem as embarrassing for the parties involved. It will take a long time to change these cultural stereotypes. Till then, inventions like ECP are accessible to females.

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Aashi Dahiya is a 24-year-old wellness enthusiast and mental health advocate. A budding content creator, she has gained experience in the world of health-oriented writing and media. She has previously worked as a journalist and continues to rally for socio-political issues in her real life. She is passionate about the idea of self and compassionate care through journaling and meditation. Time and again, she shares her views and opinions here. She can be reached on Instagram @aashiwho.

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