Emergency contraception

COPPER IUD

What is it? A Copper IUD is a small device made out of plastic and copper that is inserted into the uterus by a doctor.

How do I use it? If it is within seven days after unprotected sex, you can have a Copper IUD put in as emergency birth control. There is even some evidence that it will work if put in at any time during a menstrual cycle in which you had unprotected sex one or more times, as long as you still test negative for pregnancy at the time of insertion (do not wait to see if your period comes – if you miss your next period and are already pregnant it will be too late to have the emergency IUD).

How does it work? It interferes with sperm and egg activity and prevents fertilization and implantation.

How effective is it? Recent research shows it is over 99% effective as emergency contraception. In studies of over 7,000 women who received emergency IUDs, only 6 women (0.09%) became pregnant.

How long does it work for? If you want to leave the IUD in, it will continue to provide very effective (over 99%) protection against pregnancy for up to 5 years (sometimes even up to 10). If you do not like it or want to get pregnant, you can have it taken out any time after your next period. Once removed, the contraceptive effect is gone within hours.

How do I get it? Call Everywoman’s Health Centre 604-322-6692, Willow Women’s Clinic 604-709-5611 or Options for Sexual Health 604-731-4252. Make sure you say it is for an emergency IUD so that we can get you an appointment as soon as possible. Also, this website shows other clinics in BC that provide emergency IUDs.

Is it safe? Yes. The risks are very small. There is less than 1/1000 chance that the IUD could go through the wall of the uterus when inserted. This usually heals within weeks with no long term side effects, but sometimes requires a minor procedure to remove the IUD. There is also a very slight increased risk of infection in the first few weeks.

What are the side effects? Most women feel cramping pain when the IUD is inserted, but insertion is usually very quick. Many women feel like they are having a period afterwards with light bleeding and maybe some cramps. Periods are heavier and longer for most women afterwards, but often improve after the first 3 or 4 months.

How much does it cost? Everywoman’s Health Centre charges $75 for a copper IUD that is effective for up to five years and $90 for one that is effective for up to ten years.The cost will be similar to this at most women’s and sexual health clinics (for example, Willow Women’s Clinic or Elizabeth Bagshaw Women’s Clinic). However, if you get your IUD at a family doctor or gynecologist, they may send you to a regular pharmacy where the cost could be higher.

Call 604-322-6692 to book an emergency IUD insertion appointment at Everywoman’s. If you leave a message please say that it is for an emergency IUD.

PLAN B

What is it? Also known as the “morning after pill”, Plan B is a form of birth control that is used in an emergency. If you have unprotected sex (your method of birth control fails or no contraception is used), Plan B can help reduce your chance of pregnancy.

How does it work? It prevents or postpones ovulation, the release of an egg.

How effective is it? About 60% – if 100 women have unprotected sex one time during their cycle, 5 would become pregnant. If they took Plan B, only 2 of those women would become pregnant. Plan B is meant to reduce the risk of pregnancy from sex you have already had. Because it may delay your fertile time, you can get pregnant (perhaps even more easily), if you have unprotected sex after taking it.

How do I take it? It must be taken within 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected sex; the sooner you take it, the more effective it is. Take both pills together as soon as possible.

How do I get it? Plan B is available without a prescription. You can get it at most pharmacies and some clinics. You can also purchase Plan B in advance and have it at home so that it can be taken as soon as possible in an emergency.

How much does it cost? Plan B costs $30-$40 at most pharmacies, but with the attached prescription may be less. A prescription may also allow you to get it covered by a drug plan. If you are age 24 or younger, you may be able to get Plan B for free or at low cost from a youth clinic.  For youth clinics in the Vancouver Coastal Health region click here.  For youth clinics in Fraser Health, click here. Everywoman’s Health Centre sells it for $20, as do other women’s and sexual health clinics such as the Willow Women’s Clinic and Options for Sexual Health. It is also available for a similar price at CostCO (you do not need to have a membership to use their pharmacy).

Is it safe? Yes. There is no harm to you if you take it, nor does it cause birth defects if it does not work or if you were already pregnant when you took it.

Can anyone use it? Plan B may be less effective for women who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25-29 or weigh 165 -176 lbs (75-80kg). It is not effective in women with a BMI of 30 or higher or who weigh more than 176 lbs (80kg).

What are the side effects? There is a small chance of headaches, nausea and vomiting. You can use Tylenol, ibuprophen, or Gravol for these symptoms. Your period may be irregular in the next couple of months after taking ti – it might be shorter or longer, or come earlier or later than expected (if it comes later you may want to take a pregnancy test just in case). You may also experience some unexpected spotting or bleeding.

Is it OK to take often? There are no health risks in taking Plan B, but if you are using it often there may be a high risk of pregnancy. Plan B is not as effective as other birth control – it is meant only as an emergency or “back-up” method. Talk to us, your family doctor or another clinic about contraception that provides more protection, such as the birth control pill, patch, ring or IUD.