Talking to your kids about sex can be daunting, no matter how
close you are. But discussing issues like abstinence,
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
, and birth control can help lower teens' risk of an
or contracting an STD.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports sex education
that includes information about both abstinence and birth control.
Research has shown that this information doesn't increase
kids' level of sexual activity, but actually promotes and
increases the proper use of birth control methods among sexually
How and when you discuss sex and birth control is up to you.
Providing the facts is vital, but it's also wise to tell your
kids where you stand. Remember, by approaching these issues
like any other health topics, not as something dirty or
embarrassing, you increase the odds that your kids will
feel comfortable coming to you with any questions and
problems. As awkward as it might feel, answer questions honestly.
And if you don't know the answers, it's OK to say so, then
find out and report back.
If you have questions about how to talk with your son or
daughter about sex, consider consulting your doctor. Lots of
parents find this tough to tackle, and a doctor may offer some
What Is Emergency Contraception?
Emergency contraception is a way to prevent pregnancy after
unprotected sex. Often called the morning-after pill, emergency
contraceptive pills (ECPs) are hormone pills that can be taken any
time up to 72-120 hours after having unprotected sex. Most states
require a doctor to prescribe emergency contraception; however,
recently some states have allowed nonphysicians to provide ECPs.
Either way it is important to seek medical help and guidance.
The intrauterine device (IUD) can sometimes be used as a form of
emergency contraception; however, it is rarely prescribed for
How Does Emergency Contraception Work?
In high doses, the hormones estrogen and progesterone can
prevent pregnancy. The hormones are delivered in pills, which
usually are prescribed to be taken within 72 hours of unprotected
intercourse followed by a second dose of pills 12 hours later.
The hormones may work in a number of ways to prevent pregnancy.
They may delay ovulation (the release of an egg during the monthly
cycle), affect the movement and function of the sperm, affect the
development of the uterine lining, and disrupt the actual
fertilization process. They are less effective if fertilization has
already occurred. If implantation has already occurred and a
pregnancy exists, ECPs will not interrupt the pregnancy.
How Well Does Emergency Contraception Work?
About 1 or 2 in every 100 women who use ECPs will become
pregnant despite taking the pills within 72 hours after having
Emergency contraception is most effective when taken as soon as
possible after unprotected sex. Because of this, the
"morning-after" name is somewhat misleading: Ideally, the
pills should be taken immediately after sex, not the next
Emergency contraception will not prevent pregnancy if
the unprotected sex occurs
taking the ECPs.
Because emergency contraception does not prevent all
pregnancies, it's important for a young woman to see her doctor
if she doesn't get her next expected period after taking
Protection Against STDs
Emergency contraception does not protect against STDs. Couples
having sex must always use
to protect against STDs.
Abstinence (not having sex) is the only method that always
prevents pregnancy and STDs.
Possible Side Effects
The larger dose of hormones contained in ECPs can cause some
minor side effects for a few days, including nausea, vomiting,
breast tenderness, and headaches. The menstrual period may be
temporarily irregular after taking ECPs.
Who Uses Emergency Contraception?
Emergency contraception is not recommended as a regular birth
control method. It is designed specifically for emergencies. If a
couple is having sex and the condom breaks or slips off, if a
diaphragm or cervical cap slips out of place, or if a girl forgot
to take her birth control pills for 2 days in a row, a girl may
want to consider using emergency contraception. It is also
available to young women who are forced to have unprotected
Emergency contraception is not recommended for females who know
they are pregnant.
How Is Emergency Contraception Available?
In most cases, ECPs are available by prescription from a doctor.
Many health clinics also provide them. The Association of
Reproductive Health Professionals keeps a list of providers who
prescribe emergency contraception, which is available by
calling (888) NOT 2 LATE.
How Much Does Emergency Contraception Cost?
Depending on the type of pills prescribed, ECPs cost between
$8-$35. Many health insurance plans cover the cost of emergency
contraception and family planning clinics (such as Planned
Parenthood) charge much less.
Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: January 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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