Chapter 17: Family planning
Emergency contraception is a way to avoid pregnancy
after having sex. If a woman has sex without using a
family planning method, and she does not wish to get
pregnant, she can take a high dose of birth control pills
as soon as possible — within 5 days of having sex. The
sooner a woman takes the pills, the more likely they are
This is not a good method to use every time
a woman has sex. Emergency contraception
often causes nausea or headaches. It is not as
dependable as other methods.
How to give emergency contraceptive pills
Most birth control pills contain ethinyl estradiol (estrogen) and levonorgestrel
(progestin). The number of pills you take depends on how much ethinyl estradiol
the pill contains.
• give 100 mcg (micrograms) ethinyl estradiol by mouth.
Then 12 hours later, give another 100 mcg.
Using low-dose pills (with 30 to 35 mcg ethinyl estradiol)
• give 4 pills. Then 12 hours later, give 4 more pills.
Using high-dose pills (with 50 mcg ethinyl estradiol)
• give 2 pills. Then 12 hours later, give 2 more pills.
Emergency pills can give women headaches or severe nausea. Women can try
eating something at the same time as taking the pills. If a woman vomits within
3 hours of taking the pills, she should take the same dose again.
In some communities, women can buy pills specially made for emergency
contraception. They have a higher dose of hormones, so women do not have to
take as many pills. They may be made with only progesterone and no estrogen.
Progesterone-only pills do not usually cause nausea.
• give 0.75 mg levonorgestrel by mouth.
Then 12 hours later, give another 0.75 mg.
An IUD can also be used as emergency contraception. A trained health worker must
insert the IUD within 5 days of a woman having sex. This will usually prevent a
pregnancy. The IUD can then be left in to prevent future pregnancies. But this
method should not be used by a woman who might have an STI.
A Book for Midwives (2010)