Can an emergency contraceptive pill affect my fertility?

Our expert answers this and other questions.

Remember, an emergency contraceptive is only for those days when you forget or do not use any protection and not as a permanent birth control solution. Dr. Kaberi Banerjee, (Leading IVF and Infertility specialist, Clinical Director, Advance Fertility and Gynecological Center, New Delhi, answers the most frequently asked questions about emergency contraceptive pills.

1) Can an emergency contraceptive (EC) pill affect my fertility?

Emergency contraceptive pill per se will not affect long term fertility. However improper and frequent use of this drug will cause hormonal imbalances. Situations in which one needs to visit the Obstetrician/Gynaecologist after taking the EC pill are as follows:

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  • Rashes/itching/hives/difficulty in breathing following EC pill intake (allergy)
  • Most women get their next period within 7 days of the expected date. However if you do not, visit the doctor regardless of the status of a home urine pregnancy test.
  • If you have sudden cramping pain in the lower abdomen/back/dizziness/fainting spells/bleeding from vagina EVEN BEFORE YOUR NEXT EXPECTED PERIOD. Your doctor will need to rule out an ectopic pregnancy.
  • If you are on any kind of other medication such as antibiotics/anti epileptics.

2) How does an emergency contraceptive pill work?

Levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by preventing or delaying ovulation and/or by preventing the sperm from fertilizing the egg. However, it should be noted that levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pills will not be effective if the implantation process has already begun, and thus will not cause abortion.

3) What ill effects does it have on a woman's body?

The most common side effects associated with emergency contraceptive pills are nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, fatigue, headache, menstrual changes, diarrhea, dizziness, breast tenderness, allergy. Side effects vary from patient to patient. If patient vomits within 2-3hours of taking the EC pill it needs to be taken again. Nausea/vomiting can be avoided by taking the drug with food.

4) Can it affect my fertility and ability to have a child in the future?

The emergency contraceptive pill per se has not been shown to affect future fertility. That being said, it is a hormone meant to disrupt normal ongoing hormonal systems in the body and hence should be used for emergencies only and not IN LIEU OF A REGULAR CONTRACEPTIVE. In cases where ovulation has already occurred and there is a pregnancy despite taking the EC pill, if surgical intervention is does to deal with the unwanted pregnancy, subclinical infections due to insertion of instruments into the uterine cavity may cause subfertility in the future. This is not a direct result of the EC pill.

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