Five Common Myths About The Emergency Contraceptive Pill

The Family Planning Association recently discovered in a study that 59% of women aged 16-54 only have ‘a little’ understanding of Emergency Contraception Pills (ECPs) and how to use them.

So we thought we’d round up five myths about the Emergency Contraceptive Pill that deserve to be well and truly busted…

Myth: Emergency Contraceptive Pills Cause Abortions

A moral dilemma attached to the use of emergency contraception is the perception they cause abortions, destroying established pregnancies. However, the ECP simply delays ovulation so the sperm and egg never meet – ensuring the preventative steps are taken before fertilisation is initiated.

While sex education videos often depict the path of the sperm to be a direct sprint to the egg, the sperm in fact remain in the woman’s fallopian tube for days waiting for an egg to appear. When an egg does not appear for a few days, the sperm will die – making the delay in ovulation important.

Myth: Emergency Contraceptive Pills are Only Available on Prescription

Over one third of women still believe that a prescription is necessary when seeking an ECP. However many brands of emergency contraception are available over the counter from UK pharmacies without a prescription.

Women who are opting from an emergency IUD (intrauterine device) require the assistance of a trained doctor or nurse, often causing the confusion about the necessity of medical permission.

Myth: Emergency Contraceptive Pills Won’t Work After Consuming Alcohol

This is a very dangerous misconception due to the high percentage of unprotected sexual encounters occurring under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. Emergency contraception efficacy is unaffected by alcohol (or tobacco) in the system.

Having unprotected sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs does not negate the use of emergency contraception.

Myth: Emergency Contraceptive Pills Protects Against Unprotected Sex in the Future

An ECP protects only against one act of unprotected sex and cannot be used as a long-term solution. Taking emergency contraception once does not grant you carte blanche for future unprotected sex. The ECP will only delay your ovulation rather than stop it, so have unprotected sex again will come with the same risks of pregnancy as before the pill was taken.

The high cost of emergency contraception means it should only be used as a one-off or very occasional solution rather than a continuous long-term solution. Condoms, IUDs and contraceptive implants are much more cost effective safe sex measures to take.

Myth: Emergency Contraceptive Pills Lead to Infertility

Emergency Contraception only delays ovulation rather than stopping or destroying it. There are no studies which link ECPs to infertility, even after prolonged usage. This ensures women using emergency contraception will not be compromising or risking their health and wellbeing. The major risk of using emergency contraception is probably unplanned pregnancy as the pills only prevent 7 out of 8 pregnancies.

This post was put together by Central and North West London NHS Trust (CNWL). CNWL offers a range of health services, including three main sexual health clinics in central London.