Progestin Only Emergency Contraception

Progestin-Only Emergency Contraception Pills
Progestin-Only Emergency Contraception Pills. Photo Courtesy of P. Eaton

Definition:

A type of progestin-only pill that includes .35 mg of the progestin norethindrone, and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for emergency contraception. Brand names include:

  • Micronor
  • Nor-QD
  • Camila
  • Errin
  • Heather

What It Is:

Progestin-only pill packs consist of 28 pills. All of the pills contains the progestin hormone norethindrone. It is suggested that the pills be taken 12 hours apart.

So, you would have to take one dose of pills, and then take another dose 12 hours later. You will need to ask your doctor or pharmacist about how many pills to include in each dose.

How to Obtain:

Progestin-only emergency contraception pills require a prescription from your medical doctor, regardless of your age.

When to Use:

Progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills can be initiated up to 5 days (120) hours after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure. They are most effective the sooner you start them.

Side Effects:

There have been no reports of serious complications among the millions of women who have used emergency contraception. If you do have any side effects caused by using progestin-only emergency contraception, they will usually decrease within one – two days. These side effects include:

  • Nausea and vomiting—although the risk for this is much lower with progestin-only EC (versus combination EC). Nausea occurs approximately 23 percent of the time while vomiting happens in approximately 6 percent of progestin-only EC users.
  • You may experience breast tenderness due to EC.
  • Dizziness and/or headaches are also common.
  • EC may change the amount, duration, and/or timing of a your next period (about 10 percent - 15 percent of the time). This side effect is typically minor, and your period will usually occur a few days earlier or later than anticipated.
  • Frequent use of EC may cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable.
  • Emergency contraception, like other hormonal contraceptives, may decrease the risk of ectopic pregnancy. However, to be cautious, a you should inform your doctor that you have taken emergency contraception if you become pregnant following its use—this way, your doctor can test for the existence of an ectopic pregnancy.

Effectiveness:

Progestin-only EC is most effective the sooner it is started. If started within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, progestin-only EC reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89 percent. Of every 100 women who use this method, only 11 woman will become pregnant.

EC will not continue to prevent pregnancy during the rest of your cycle, so additional contraceptive methods should be used.

Costs:

Two packs of progestin-only pills will cost between $30-$80. This is in addition to the costs associated with doctor’s visits in order to obtain the prescription for the EC. Under the Affordable Care Act, these costs may be covered, so check with your health insurance provider.

STD Protection:

Progestin only EC offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.

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