Step one: feel free to get all those expletives out of your system. That’s better. Step two: relax. There’s a potential fix. Emergency contraception options include the hormonal pill or copper intrauterine device (IUD). Both are handy for preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex. This can be because of a broken condom, a missed birth control pill or simply that no contraception was used.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), on the other hand, could still be a risk. Unfortunately, we live in a world where infections happen, and teleportation doesn’t. So, go get tested. You’ll sleep better at night.

What is the pill?

A contraceptive pill prevents or delays ovaries from releasing an egg. It’s 85-99% effective in preventing pregnancy but it doesn’t protect you against STIs. There are currently two types of the emergency contraceptive pill: the ulipristal acetate pill (sold as EllaOne®) and levonorgestrel pill (sold as various brands). Ulipristal acetate is more effective than levonorgestrel at preventing pregnancy. On the other hand, the pill may not work as effectively if you’re too late in taking one, vomit within 2-3 hours of ingestion or if you’re taking certain medications. It’s always best to consult your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before taking a morning after pill.

How do I use the morning after pill?

The pill should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Yes, we know what it’s called, but don’t wait until the morning after. Having said that, the contraceptive pill can also be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected sex, depending on the brand. Again, talking to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will be very helpful here. But if you’re unable to see a doctor or a nurse straight away (say, it’s the weekend), you can get emergency contraception directly from your pharmacist after a discussion and filling out a questionnaire.

What are the side effects of a contraceptive pill?

The morning after pill may change a menstrual cycle to come earlier or later. Sometimes there may also be less or more menstrual blood than usual. A small number of users have reported getting a headache, nausea, bloating and sore/tender breasts after taking the pill. But in general, there are no known serious risks from taking the morning after pill. It’s also possible to have no side effects at all. Phew.

How can I get the emergency contraceptive pill?

Make an appointment with a GP at Swinburne’s health and wellbeing centre. If you can’t afford a pregnancy test, you can still book a free appointment at the on-campus sexual health clinic. Our on-campus nurse or doctor will help you with next steps.

The copper IUD as an emergency contraceptive

Another effective method of emergency contraception is the copper IUD. A specially trained health professional will have to insert it for you, but once it’s in there, it’ll prevent pregnancy 99% of the time you engage in penetrative sex, and lasts up to 10 years. The clincher is you’ll need to insert the copper IUD within 120 hours of unprotected sex. For people who get funky reactions to hormone pills, this one’s for you.

How can I get the copper IUD?

Make an appointment with a GP. It’s important for the copper IUD to be inserted within 120 hours of doing the deed, otherwise it won’t be effective as an emergency contraceptive. Learn more about the copper IUD here.

What about STIs?

If you’ve had unprotected sex, you might be at risk of getting an STI – that’s something the morning after pill can’t help with. Some STIs have no symptoms, so sometimes no news isn’t good news. In this case, it’s not enough to just keep your fingers crossed. When you see your doctor for an emergency contraceptive pill or copper IUD insertion, it’s a good idea to also get an STI screen. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We’re all about providing judgement-free advice when you seek help at a Swinburne health centre.

I’m pregnant and I’m not ready

Before anything else, know that a pregnancy test is most accurate when done around the time your period is due. If you do the test too early, it may give you a false result. If you’re 100% sure you’re pregnant, let’s pretend this was a Choose Your Own Adventure storybook. Your adventure options are as follows:

  • Consider and consult a medical professional for an abortion.
  • Continue with the pregnancy.
  • Continue with the pregnancy and consider adoption.

Just like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, what you do next is YOUR choice. In Victoria, most abortions can be performed up to 12 weeks of pregnancy and in some special cases, up to 24 weeks. It’s a good idea to talk to a doctor or a family planning clinic about next steps. You can also contact 1800-My Options or Adoption Victoria for more information.

Did you know?

Swinburne offers on-site health services and fully confidential counselling to students at all campuses. To book a free sexual health appointment, simply call +61 3 9214 8483. If you have symptoms, book with a GP at the Hawthorn or Wantirna campus. If you don’t have any symptoms, book with your on campus nurse or the weekly sexual health clinic at the Hawthorn campus. You'll need 30 minutes for your first appointment.

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