• Dr. Sally

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (EC) is a method of birth control that can be used to prevent pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex -- when no birth control was used or something went wrong with the birth control, like a condom breaking.

There are two types of EC pills currently available:

1. Pill containing a progestin hormone called Plan B One-Step and its generics like Next Choice, My Way, etc.

2. Pill containing a hormone blocker called Ella or ulipristal acetate.

Plan B One-Step is available over the counter or with a prescription. Ella is only available by prescription.

How does it work?

EC pills prevent pregnancy by delaying the release of an egg. If a pregnancy has already occurred, EC pills will not result in an abortion, harm a developing fetus, or affect your ability to get pregnant in the future.

How well does it work?

Using EC lowers your risk of pregnancy by 58 - 94%, depending on what type of EC you use, how quickly you take it, your weight, and where you are in your cycle. EC works better the sooner you take it. It can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but it works better the sooner you take it.

EC does not protect against STDs.

How do I take it?

Take EC as soon as possible after having sex that was either unprotected or where you suspect your birth control did not work (i.e. recently missed pills, condom broke, etc.).

If you throw up within two hours of taking an EC pill, take another dose. Anti-nausea medicine can be taken an hour before to prevent this from happening again.

There are some things you should NOT do:

Do not have unprotected sex after taking EC. You'll need another form of birth control for future sex.

Do not take two forms of EC. The two different EC pills might cancel each other out, so pick just one product.

What side effects might I experience?

Most people don't experience any side effects. It's possible that you have some nausea. EC can also cause your period to come later than usual.

What if I want to get pregnant soon?

If you want to get pregnant but not right now, it is fine to use EC. It will not affect your chances of getting pregnant in the future. You can get pregnant right after taking an EC pill and stopping all other forms of birth control.

Is it right for me?

EC is a very safe way of preventing pregnancy after having unprotected sex. However, EC pills are less effective at preventing pregnancy than consistent birth control methods like the pill, patch, ring, or shot. If you're heavier or larger, the hormone EC (Plan B One-Step) may not be as effective as the hormone blocker EC (Ella). If you're a hormonal birth control user, the hormone EC may be a better choice than the hormone blocker EC. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which is right for you.

The copper IUD is the only form of EC that is effective regardless of weight. The copper IUD is more effective in preventing pregnancy than EC pills. If you opt for the IUD, schedule an appointment to get it as soon as possible. In order to work as EC, the copper IUD must be placed within five days of unprotected sex.

Connect to learn more about our work to expand access to birth control. Or email us.

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