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Is the coil safer than the morning after pill?

Posted in: Women's Health 11 May, 2012

Emergency contraception has caused controversy all over the world, and in many countries is it still a highly stigmatised topic. The negative connotations associated with going to the doctor after having unprotected sex prompted some local governments to offer over-the-counter emergency contraception to girls under the age of 16, causing public outrage.

Today, a new study has been released claiming that an IUD (or coil) is in fact more effective as a method of emergency contraception than the morning-after-pill, and suggests that girls as young as 11 should undergo a procedure to have the coil inserted after unprotected sex.

The main reason for this is a claim that 72 hours after having unprotected intercourse, the coil is slightly more effective in preventing pregnancy. However, whilst taking a tablet is an easy option, having a coil inserted is a complex procedure, which requires a medical professional. It also means that you will be protected against pregnancy until it’s removed, which can be up to ten years later.

What the study fails to take into account is that although the most popular form of emergency contraception is only effective for up to 72 hours after intercourse, there are other pills which prevent pregnancy when taken up to five days after having unprotected sex.

The main benefit of the coil, it seems, is that women who rely on emergency contraception regularly will be protected without having to remember to take a daily pill or use a condom. An argument could be made against the wide availability of emergency contraception and the use of the term ‘morning-after pill’ as it trivialises its use and can lead to some women using it repeatedly.

Although these issues are important and should be addressed, surely the most important issue to tackle is the increasingly high number of unwanted pregnancies in the UK, particularly amongst teenagers. Although some people may consider the morning after pill to be a form of birth control, the majority of women will be aware that it is intended in the rare cases when their usual method of contraception fails.

Women should be given the option of having a coil fitted if they are in need of emergency contraception, as many people are unaware that there is an alternative to the morning after pill. But the concept of encouraging it begs the question of whether there is an agenda behind this new discovery.

The American state of Arizona passed a bill earlier this year which required women who wanted an abortion to undergo a painful procedure, supposedly for medical purposes (which had never been an issue before). One could argue that it was an effort to effectively punish any woman requiring a termination. Are we coming close to doing the same?

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