Can Emergency Contraception Cause Hormonal Imbalance?

Emergency contraception is a convenient way to prevent pregnancy after an unexpected sexual encounter.  The Morning After Pill (MAP) is another name for emergency contraception and you can take it up to five days after your encounter.  It is more effective if you take it as soon earlier rather than later. The MAP contains hormones like the conventional contraceptive pill and affects your menstrual cycle.

Periods following emergency contraception may be different for some women but remain the same for others. Some women will experience the following side effects due to the increase in hormones; nausea, abdominal pain, tender breasts and backache.  Irregular bleeding and spotting is a possibility but not in all cases. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may encounter more side effects due to already having a hormone imbalance.

Severe hormone imbalance from taking emergency contraception is rare so it is important you visit your doctor if you suffer from severe side effects.  The morning after pill is a convenient form of contraception but is not ideal so choosing an appropriate form of contraception is better in the long run.

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What Is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception is exactly as it suggests a contraceptive taken in an emergency.  The two most popular pills are Levonelle and EllaOne. They are available online, in chemists and from your doctor.  A prescription is no longer necessary so they are easy to buy.

EllaOne

EllaOne works up to 5 days (120 hours) after sexual intercourse.  It is most effective if you take it as soon as possible. The active ingredient ulipristal acetate alters the production of the hormone progesterone which plays a major role in ovulating. It prevents ovulation from occurring by keeping progesterone levels artificially high. This prevents an egg coming into contact with sperm which survives for five days in the fallopian tubes.

As with all contraception, EllaOne is not 100% reliable and will not work if you have already ovulated or are pregnant. It is not an abortion pill and will not harm your unborn baby.  Common side effects include; nausea, painful periods, stomach pain, headaches, tiredness and muscle pain. Most women do not suffer any significant side effects after taking emergency contraception.  

Levonelle

Levonelle works up to 3 days (72 hours) after intercourse.  As with all emergency contraception, it is most effective taken straight away.  It works by preventing ovulation in a similar way to EllaOne. Levonelle is 84% successful if taken with the 72-hour window.  Common side effects include tiredness, nausea, painful periods and headaches. It is not an abortion pill and will not affect an existing pregnancy.

The Coil

The coil is an emergency contraceptive that prevents pregnancy by making the womb a hostile environment. This makes it very difficult for an egg to implant and result in pregnancy.  The copper coil does not interfere with hormones and acts as a regular form of contraception if you leave it in place. A doctor inserts the coil after making sure you are not already pregnant.  This is one of the most reliable methods of emergency contraception (source: NHS).

What Causes A Hormone Imbalance?

Hormones play a major role in our lives because they control many aspects of our bodies.  They regulate growth and the general working of our bodies. There are many different hormones and many reasons for an imbalance.  Women suffer hormone imbalance relating to their menstrual cycle due to fluctuations of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

Women encounter hormone imbalance due to; puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and the menopause.  These are normal types of imbalance and women learn to live with the changes in their moods and bodies during this time. Some women have hormone replacement therapy during the perimenopausal to relieve undesirable symptoms.

Other reasons women encounter a hormone imbalance include; PCOS, HRT and birth control, menopause, POI and ovarian cancer.  Symptoms are vast and include; irregular painful periods, osteoporosis, weight gain, hair loss or gain and infertility. Emergency contraception may or may not cause a hormone imbalance but it is important you see your doctor if you suffer from any unusual symptoms.  A hormonal imbalance may be a sign of an underlying health condition which requires treatment. (Source: Medical News Today).

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By Birpal Virdee (May 2018)