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Regular Emergency Contraceptive Use May Cause Menstrual Complications – Gynaecologists

Maternal health experts have advised women against regular use of emergency contraception, warning that it could lead to menstrual complications and irregularities.

Engaging in regular unprotected sexual intercourse, they said, should be discouraged as it promotes persistent use of emergency pills.

The World Health Organisation described emergency contraception as a method used to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse.

The WHO advised using the pills within five days, adding that the sooner they are used following sexual activity, the more effective they are.

An obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr. Akinsola Akinde emphasised that emergency contraceptive pills are meant for emergency purposes and not for everyday usage as they can alter the regulation of menstrual cycles.

Akinde, who is the former Chairman, Society of Gynaecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria, also said women using emergency pills may suffer other ailments like Deep vein thrombosis, which occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body, usually in the legs.

He said, “It is not meant for someone in a stable relationship, and who engages in regular sexual intercourse. Menstrual irregularities may result from frequent and repeated use of the medication.

“It does not lead to cancer but it can result in menstrual irregularities because the common method of emergency contraception is hormone-based and its frequent and repeated use can derange the regulation of menstrual cycles.”

While noting that contraceptive pills should be taken under medical supervision, the maternal health expert maintained that emergency contraception should be reserved for rape victims, and not for individuals who engage in regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.

“Contraceptive pills should be used under medical supervision. Such a person should have detailed clinical history and would have been examined by qualified providers, who will then advise on the best method to be used,” he added.

On her part, a Consultant Gynaecologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Modupe Adedeji, said repeated use of emergency contraception can lead to failure of the method and result in an unwanted pregnancy.

She noted that married couples who are not ready for a baby should embrace family planning, while singles should ensure to use protection.

“What is best for the latter is condoms, which will do the dual job of protecting against sexually transmitted diseases and preventing unplanned pregnancy.

“So, regular use of emergency contraceptive pills will probably cause failure and the woman will now have an unplanned pregnancy and will want to procure abortion, and if it is not properly done, it might lead to complications and eventually death.

“Abortion happens to be one of the causes of death in maternal mortality in this part of the world. People listen to a lot of hearsay on family planning, which is false.

“We usually think that it is the single women that do abortion. It is common among married women, who believe they are done with childbearing and then pregnancy will occur.”

On the type of contraceptive methods to adopt, the gynaecologist advised, “It is better to be on a family planning method. This is because it helps you to plan your family size and safely space your children.

“There are various contraceptive methods that can be used but you will have to liaise with family planning personnel that will let you know which one is ideal for your body type.

“For unmarried people, it is best to use condoms than to engage in the use of pills, which at the end of the day, may fail and lead to unwanted pregnancy.

“But for the irregularities, every woman has a menstrual cycle and the use of emergency pills can cause a delay in menstruation. If one is using the drugs almost every month, then that means the cycle will be irregular. That is why I am talking about the importance of counselling when using these pills.

“Excessive use of emergency pills can build immunity in the body, making the person prone to infections.”

WHO in a report revealed that frequent and repeated use of emergency contraceptive pills may be harmful to women with conditions classified as medical eligibility criteria (MEC) category 2, 3, or 4 for combined hormonal contraception or Progestin-only contraceptives (POC).

The global health body noted that women who repeatedly use emergency pills should consult the doctor for further counselling.

“Frequent use of emergency contraception can result in increased side-effects, such as menstrual irregularities, although their repeated use poses no known health risks.

“Emergency contraceptive pills were found to be less effective in obese women (whose body mass index is more than 30 kg/m2), but there are no safety concerns.

“Counselling for the use of emergency contraceptive pills should include options for using regular contraception and advice on how to use methods correctly in case of perceived method failure.”

According to Cleveland Clinic, an emergency pill, also known as the morning-after pill can cause menstrual irregularity.

“Some symptoms of taking a morning-after pill can include; nausea and vomiting, fatigue, light bleeding, pain in your abdomen or breast, headaches, dizziness, and changes to normal menstrual cycles.

“The side effects of the morning-after pill are mild for most people. But if you notice more severe symptoms or have concerns after taking the morning-after pill, reach out to your healthcare provider,” it advised.

SOURCE: HealthWise