The Health Advisory Clinic > News > A guide on emergency contraception (the “Morning After Pill”) in Singapore

A guide on emergency contraception (the “Morning After Pill”) in Singapore

Emergency contraception, otherwise known as “Plan B” or the “morning after pill”, is a form of birth control you can take after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. When taken within 5 days of sexual intercourse, emergency contraception can reduce the chance of getting pregnant by 75-95%; however the sooner it is taken after intercourse, the higher its effectiveness. Ideally, emergency contraception should be taken within 48-72 hours of unprotected sex. 

If you’re looking to get emergency contraception in Singapore, this article will explain what you need to know. However, do take note that emergency contraception is not the same thing as getting an abortion; it will not work if you are already pregnant.

How can I get morning after pills in Singapore?

In Singapore, morning after pills or emergency contraception is only available with a doctor’s prescription (including general practitioners). While most if not all doctors are qualified to prescribe the morning after pill, not every clinic may carry it or have a team that’s familiar with women’s health. It is also important that you speak with a doctor who is able to address your concerns in a judgement-free way. Since it is crucial for the emergency pill to be taken on time and ideally as soon as possible, we suggest going straight to a sexual health clinic. 

Do take note that a woman must consult the doctor herself. If you are seeking emergency contraception on behalf of your partner, she needs to see the doctor herself.

What kind of morning after pills can I get in Singapore?

Postinor

  • Also known as levonorgestrel, sold under the brand name “Plan B” 
  • Contains a synthetic version of progesterone 
  • Stops your ovaries from releasing an egg 
  • Prevents sperm from fertilising any egg you may have already released 
  • Must be taken within 72 hours 
  • 2 tablets taken 12 hours apart 

Ella

  • Thins the uterine lining and prevents a fertilised egg from attaching to the uterus 
  • Must be taken within 5 days from intercourse, although the sooner the better 
  • 1 tablet

You should not take two different morning after pills concurrently or within 5 days from taking the first one. The ingredients in the pills may counteract each other and end up not working entirely. It is also not recommended to take the pill more than once during the same menstrual cycle as its safety and effectiveness have yet to be studied.

Will I experience any side effects?

Due to the high levels of hormones in emergency contraception, you may experience some side effects such as: 

  • Nausea and vomiting (in the event that you throw up within 2 hours of taking the pill, you need to take another one)
  • Sore and tender breasts 
  • Irregular bleeding 
  • Headaches 
  • Dizziness 

To reduce nausea from the pill, we recommend taking it after food. 

Some rare but serious side effects include: 

  • Swelling in your face, eyes, lips or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Rashes all over your body 

If you experience any of these symptoms, please seek medical advice immediately. 

Who can take the morning after pill?

In Singapore, all women at least 16 years of age can take the morning after pill. However, you may not be suitable to take it if you’re allergic to any of the ingredients in it, have severe asthma or are currently on any medication that may interfere with it, including: 

  • Medication used to treat epilepsy, tuberculosis or HIV
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) like omeprazole which are used to treat excess stomach acid
  • Antibiotics like rifampicin and rifabutin

Please let your doctor know your medical history or if you are on any medication.

How would I know if the pill worked?

The morning after pill should be taken within 5 days after unprotected intercourse; although the earlier it’s taken, the more effective it is. Some common side effects as described above are normal. Your next period may be heavier or lighter or might come a week earlier or later. However, if your period is significantly delayed (does not come within three weeks), you should take a pregnancy test. 

Additionally, if you get bleeding or spotting that lasts longer than a week or develop severe lower abdominal pain 3-5 weeks after taking the pill, please see a doctor.

How often can I use the morning after pill?

While emergency contraception can be a lifesaver for preventing pregnancy, it should not be used frequently as it may cause your period to be irregular. It is, after all, for emergencies. For long term contraception, you may consider other options like birth control pills or contraceptive patches. They are a lot more effective and not so stressful on the body. 

If you require more information on contraception, feel free to reach out to us and we will do our best to help!

References

  1. Mittal S. (2016). Emergency contraception: which is the best?. Minerva ginecologica, 68(6), 687–699.
  2. Black, K. I., & Hussainy, S. Y. (2017). Emergency contraception: Oral and intrauterine options. Australian family physician, 46(10), 722–726.