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Ask Big Sis: I Need Emergency Contraception. What Should I Do? Where Do I Go?

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Dear Big Sis,

Last night I was with my bae and we did the deed, but we didn’t use a condom! Yho! I’m not ready for a baby and want to get some emergency contraception. What are my next steps?

Hey little Sis,

It’s smart of you to reach out for help. So proud of you!

Please remember, you are not alone sis. Lots of girls reach out to me with similar questions. I gotchu!

Before we start, I wouldn’t be Big Sis if I didn’t let you know that if you had sex without a condom you might also want to test for a sexually transmitted infection (STI) to take care of your sexual health.

Okay, now let’s talk about emergency contraception. You have two good options fam!

The first option is the morning after pill.

What Is It?

It’s a contraceptive tablet that you take within 72 hours after unprotected sex or a contraception failure to prevent pregnancy. The sooner you take it after unprotected sex, the better.

Where Can You Get It?

The morning after pill should be available for free at your local clinic, but if they’re out of stock, you can get it somewhere else. It’s available at most pharmacies for between R80 and R100. You can also get it at private sexual and reproductive health providers like Marie Stopes.

What Do I Need To Know About It?

Sis, there are a few things to remember about the morning after pill.

  • One - you only need to take one pill within 72 hours after unprotected sex for it to be effective. The morning after pill doesn’t work if you know you are already pregnant.
  • Two - it isn’t meant to be used as your regular form of contraception. That means it’s still important to still use your usual contraception next time you have sex.
  • Three - it doesn’t protect you from STIs, so you still need to use a condom next time you have sex, and like I said before, it’s a good idea to get an STI test too.
What To Expect After You Take It?

You might have some side effects like nausea, pain in your abdomen, feeling tired, headaches, spotting, changes in your next period (like it being heavier or lighter than usual), dizziness, sensitive breasts, or vomiting. If you vomit within two hours of taking the morning after pill, you should call a nurse or doctor to find out if you need to take another dose. These side effects don’t happen to everyone, and they shouldn’t last very long.

Chomi, the second option is the intrauterine device, commonly called an IUD, a loop, or a coil.

What Is It?

It’s a tiny T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s put into the uterus by a trained healthcare provider, like a doctor or a nurse. If you’ve had unprotected sex or a contraception failure you can get the IUD put in up to 5 days after you had sex to prevent a pregnancy.

Where Can You Get It?

The IUD is able to be put in at GPs, gynaecologists, and some family planning clinics. At a government clinic it’s free, but at a private clinic it can cost anything from R500 - R1600. You can also get it at Marie Stopes. Sometimes the IUD might not be right for you or your body, because we are all different, and you may need to get the morning after pill instead. That’s why it's important to get emergency contraception as soon as possible after unprotected sex.

What Do I Need To Know About It?

Once the IUD is inserted it’s a long lasting form of contraception - it protects against pregnancy for five to ten years, depending on which IUD you get. You can have it removed at any time after you’ve had it inserted. But remember - the IUD only protects against pregnancy, not STIs, so you still need to use a condom each and every time you have sex to stop you from getting, or passing on, STIs.

What To Expect After You Take It?

Peeps usually feel some cramping and pain when they’re getting the IUD put in, but this usually only lasts a few minutes. You can take pain medication before the procedure if you’re worried. After it's put in, some peeps also feel dizzy, or feel like fainting. If you are worried about this it’s a good idea to ask a bestie to come to the appointment with you. Some peeps also have some back ache or cramping or spotting after it's put in, so it’s a good idea to chill and rest up for a day or two after it's inserted. Long term side effects might include changes in your period, like making it heavier or lighter, or making it last longer.

That’s all the info I can share with you today. Remember, you can always reach out to Marie Stopes to find out more, or call the Big Sis Helpline on 0800 12 84 55 (Monday - Friday, 7 - 7, Saturdays 8.30 - 12.30) to chat to a real-life counsellor who can help you out.

Stay amazing!
Big Sis