Nothing quite kills a nice sex afterglow like the stab of fear slicing through your guts when you realize, "Oh sh*t. I definitely forgot to take the pill today." When this happens, most of us with uteruses have the same method for how to not get pregnant: leaping out of bed and hauling ourselves to the internet to perform a panicked search. It's easy, in this stressed-out state, to come across message boards and forums posting worst-case scenarios. Before too long, we're worrying about how we are going to raise a child in our freshman dorm room.
Fortunately, this has been an issue that people who are capable of becoming pregnant have been facing for centuries. There are modern medical solutions, as well as time-honored traditional herbal practices that help address the issue of an accidental pregnancy before it even happens. As you read on, please keep in mind that herbal supplements are not 100 percent effective and have not been approved by the FDA. None of this article is intended as actual medical advice, and you'll want to consult with a doctor, pharmacist, or herbalist with any questions.
And of course, using a backup method, like condoms, will always offer more protection than taking a pill will. "Emergency contraception does not protect against STDs," says Dr. Jennifer Caudle, Family Physician and Associate Professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Do your research into potential side effects to determine whether these methods may actually work for your body, and don't forget to talk to your doctor about more reliable forms of contraception to save yourself the fear and anxiety when if this happens next time.
1. The Morning-After Pill
Emergency contraceptive pills are available over-the-counter at local pharmacies or are available by prescription. Taking a morning after pill reduces your chances of getting pregnant from unprotected sex by 90 percent. It can stop you from ovulating (but only for a short time), prevents fertilization, and stops a fertilized egg from attaching itself to your uterus. It costs $40 to $50, and Dr. Caudle says, "It's important to seek out emergency contraception as soon as possible after unprotected sex, because the window of effectiveness varies by brand and timing."
There are a few drawbacks to taking Plan B or other forms of hormonal emergency contraception. Some emergency contraception may not work with certain medications or nutritional supplements, tampers with your cycle, and is pretty expensive. It's also not advisable to take it frequently, as it is definitely not as effective as other methods of birth control. Plan B, specifically, usually only works up to 72 hours after having unprotected sex, so if you decide to go this route, you should get your hands on it sooner rather than later. And definitely ask your partner to buy it for you, or at the very least, go halfsies so you aren't stuck floating the whole bill.
"Many women who take emergency contraception pills have side effects, which can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, and fatigue," says Dr. Caudle. But I'd argue that those side effects are definitely better than an unwanted pregnancy.
2. Unripe Papaya
Raw papaya is so powerful that pregnant women are actually told to avoid eating it because it contains a type of latex, which may cause contractions in the uterus. If you eat unripe papaya twice a day for three to four days after unprotected sex it may induce your period early, without flooding your body with hormones. The reason is that raw papaya contains papain, which inhibits the release of progesterone. Progesterone is needed to prepare the uterus before you can get pregnant.
3. Vitamin C
The high levels of asorbic acid in over-the-counter Vitamin C can induce an early period. Taking 1500 milligrams twice a day for two or three days after unprotected sex could put you in the clear for pregnancy. But be careful, as taking megadoses of vitamin C does have potential side effects, like diarrhea, and should not be taken if you have certain medical issues, such as sickle cell anemia.
Again, natural methods of contraception do not have 100 percent effectiveness and may not always work. You should definitely consult a medical professional before taking matters into your own hands.
4. Queen Anne's Lace Seeds
Also known as wild carrot seed, the use of Queen Anne's lace as a natural contraceptive traces back to India, although Hippocrates also described its contraceptive properties 2,000 years ago. Wild carrot blocks the progesterone that is needed to develop the walls of the uterine lining. Taking one teaspoon of the seeds after intercourse and for the following week may prevent an unwanted pregnancy, but note that wild carrot seeds are not to be relied upon by people who are coming off the birth control pill. You're better off investigating its contraceptive properties in a non-emergency setting by talking to an herbalist you trust.
5. Smartweed Leaves
Smartweed is used as a natural contraceptive in many places all over the world. The leaves are believed to contain rutin, as well as quercetin and gallic acid — all of which are substances that prevent eggs from implanting in the walls of the uterus. One ounce of dried rue leaves (or 4 ounces of fresh leaves) can be turned into tea by boiling it in a quart of water. Drinking the tea until menstruation begins has been a common method of preventing an unwanted pregnancy, although, as with all tips given here, consult a professional first.
Remember, the best way to prevent an unplanned pregnancy is through regular birth control use and condom use. And if you do forget both of those, over-the-counter emergency contraception is likely the most reliable option. Always remember to consult your doctor or an herbalist before trying any alternative forms of emergency contraception, and understand that herbal alternatives may not be 100 percent effective.
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