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Emergency Contraception: Good Reasons to Use it for Emergencies Only
This activity is intended to follow a lesson on the range of safe and appropriate birth control methods, including emergency contraception (EC). It is designed to clarify why EC is best used for emergency situations rather than as a means of ongoing birth control.
Note to educators: Some educators have reservations about teaching youth about birth control and emergency contraception because they do not want to appear to encourage youth to be sexually active. If you have reservations about educating youth about the availability of emergency contraception, be sure to read these reasons why using birth control before having sex makes a lot more sense than using no protection or relying on emergency contraception after having sex. To learn more about emergency contraception, check out the material on this ReCAPP website as well as in the Resources section, including the Emergency Contraception web site at: ec.princeton.edu/.
Emergency Contraception (EC) is a safe and often readily available means of contraception. In all states, Next Choice®, Plan B® or Plan B One‑Step® are available over the counter for those 17 and older, while in most states minors under 17 need a doctor's prescription. (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont allow pharmacists to dispense Plan B® or Plan B One‑Step® without prescription to women of all ages.)
Since a large number of youth are engaging in unprotected sex, they may have a tendency to rely on types of EC rather than planning ahead by using regular birth control options. This activity will address the risks and consequences of relying on EC as the only contraceptive method.
Flip chart or chalk board
Markers or chalk
Paper and pens/pencils
Watch or clock
- Divide the class into groups of four.
- Ask each group to choose a:
- Recorder (takes notes)
- Time keeper (keeps track of time and indicates 4-minute and 6-minute marks.)
- Reporter (reports back to the class about what the group has generated)
- Watcher (makes sure that everyone gets to speak and be heard)
- Tell the class that they will have eight minutes to brainstorm and record all the reasons that EC is best used for emergencies only, rather than as a means of ongoing birth control. Ask the class to refer back to what they learned in the recent lesson on birth control methods. Remind the class that in a brainstorm there are NO WRONG ANSWERS.
- Circulate and answer questions as the brainstorm is occurring.
- When eight minutes are up, ask the reporters to share their findings to the class. Write all their answers on the chalk board or flip chart.
- Once all the groups have reported back, review the answers and add any of the following reasons that have not already been included:
- EC is less reliable than regular use of the birth control pills or consistent and correct use of condoms. There are higher percentages of unintended pregnancies.
- Users are more likely to forget to take or not take EC after EVERY act of intercourse.
- Women who have unprotected sex after taking EC need to take it again to maximize its protection.
- Some EC methods have unpleasant side effects. Studies concluded that EC is not appropriate for routine use because high proportions of women experienced side effects such as menstrual problems (e.g., bleeding or spotting between periods), nausea, breast tenderness, headache, dizziness, or fatigue/weakness.
- EC usually costs more than regular birth control.
- EC is usually less convenient to obtain than regular birth control.
- EC offers no protection from sexually transmitted infections or HIV.
Once you have generated a comprehensive list, ask the class if they have additional thoughts, questions or concerns. Refer them to other resources (such as the Emergency Contraception Hotline or Teenwire.com) that can support them.