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Use of Daily Pills for Emergency Contraception

The effectiveness of the modern types of contraceptives, including condoms and popular daily pills for women, is extremely high, ranging from 98% up to 99.99%. Such figures can make even the most mistrustful people confident about the reliability of contraceptives. Indeed, everyone considers himself to be lucky enough to avoid the failure, estimated in such a miniscule figure as 0.01%.

However, there is another official statistics, saying that more than 3 millions pregnancies, occurring in the USA each year, are unintended. Do you want to get even more interesting fact? Here you are about 50% of those pregnancies are the result of contraceptive failures. So what should we do on detecting the leak in the condom or some other sign of the contraceptive failure after the sexual intercourse? In this case people should always remember about the available back-up method, which is called emergency contraception.

Emergency contraception (EC) is usually defined as the method to prevent pregnancy after the unprotected vaginal intercourse. Nowadays the most widely spread medications for EC are Preven and Plan B. They are highly effective in preventing pregnancy, when used within 72 hours after the successful landing of male spermatozoid troops in the female vagina. However, all these medications are available only with the prescription, and it is not always possible to visit a doctor, get the prescription and buy the medication - and all these actions should be performed in just 72 hours after the unprotected sex.

Happily, there is another opportunity - hormonal birth control pills, such as Ortho Tri Cyclean, Alesse or Seasonique, which are taken daily by the majority of women, can also be used as the emergency contraceptive. In fact, the same hormone, levonorgestrel, which is one of the active ingredients of daily pills, is also used in the pills for emergency contraception. The only difference is the dose. Daily pills usually contain about 0.15 mg of this hormone, while the dose of 0.75 mg is required for emergency contraception.

By the way, administering 0.75 mg of levonorgestrel in one dose with the repeat of the same dose in 12 hours afterwards was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the regimen for emergency contraception in 1999.

However, since the majority of daily pills contains some other hormones besides levonorgestrel to prevent pregnancy, it is recommended to take several daily pills, the total dose of levonorgestrel in which would not exceed 0.50 - 0.60 mg.

So, in case of emergency, a female can take 4 or 5 active pills, which she usually uses daily for pregnancy protection, and this will prevent pregnancy after the protection-free sexual intercourse took place or if the primary birth control method failed. The pills should be taken within 72 hours after the unprotected sex and the same dose should be repeated 12 hours afterwards. Though the time frame of 72 hours is recommended, the doctors usually say that the sooner you will take the pills, the more affective it is for pregnancy protection.

Finally, it is important to remember that the maximum dosage of levonorgestrel for EC is 0.75 mg, and it should not be exceeded. You can read the dose of that hormone on your pills package and calculate how many pills you should take to get the proper dose of levonorgestrel. Please, be sure not to exceed the dose; if you are not sure, it is better to call a doctor or consult a pharmacist.

To make the calculations easier, below is the table with the recommended regimen of some popular oral contraceptives, when they are used for emergency contraception.

Brand First Doseb Second Doseb
(12 hours later)
Alesse 5 pink pills 5 pink pills
Aviane 5 orange pills 5 orange pills
Cryselle 4 white pills 4 white pills
Enpresse 4 orange pills 4 orange pills
Jolessa 4 pink pills 4 pink pills
Lessina 5 pink pills 5 pink pills
Levlen 4 light-orange pills 4 light-orange pills
Levlite 5 pink pills 5 pink pills
Levora 4 white pills 4 white pills
Lo/Ovral 4 white pills 4 white pills
Low-Ogestrel 4 white pills 4 white pills
Lutera 5 white pills 5 white pills
Nordette 4 light-orange pills 4 light-orange pills
Ogestrel 2 white pills 2 white pills
Ovral 2 white pills 2 white pills
Portia 4 pink pills 4 pink pills
Quasense 4 white pills 4 white pills
Seasonale 4 pink pills 4 pink pills
Seasonique 4 light-blue-green pills 4 light-blue-green pills
Tri-Levlen 4 yellow pills 4 yellow pills
Triphasil 4 yellow pills 4 yellow pills
Trivora 4 pink pills 4 pink pills

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