Even if you have an established birth control plan,
accidents happen. If you’ve had unprotected sex, or your birth control method
failed, there are still options available. Emergency contraception (EC) can be
used to prevent an unwanted pregnancy by delaying or preventing the release of
an egg from a woman’s ovaries. It is not
EC is no substitute for regular forms of birth control.
However, it can be very useful for women who:
- have been raped or coerced into having sex
- have a partner who refused to use a condom
- forgot to use their regular contraceptive, or used it
had a contraceptive failure, such as a broken condom
The emergency contraceptive pill is a safe and effective way
to prevent pregnancy before it occurs. It can be taken up to five days after
unprotected intercourse, but it is more effective the sooner it is used.
Available brands include:
- Next Choice
These pills can be used to prevent pregnancy up to five days
after an episode of unprotected sex. However, the sooner you take them, the
more effective they are.
Many people believe that the emergency contraceptive pill causes
an abortion, but this is absolutely not true. The emergency contraceptive pill prevents
ovulation. When no egg is released, a woman cannot get pregnant.
In addition to branded emergency contraceptive pills,
certain birth control pills can be used as EC. You can find more information on
pills and dosages at the Emergency Contraception Website.
Taking the EC Pill
can take the morning-after pill in either one or two doses, depending on the
pill. It is
important to read the instructions carefully before you take it.
EC is only effective after sex. If you have sex after taking
the emergency contraceptive pill, you are not protected from pregnancy.
According to Planned Parenthood, the emergency contraceptive
pill is 89 percent effective in preventing pregnancy if taken within 72 hours
of unprotected sex. It becomes less effective after that. The sooner you take
EC, the more effective it is.
In recent clinical trials, the pill was less effective in
women with a BMI of 30 or greater than in non-obese women. However, there was
evidence that emergency contraceptive pills that include ulipristal acetate
(such as ella) were more effective in obese women.
If you have not gotten your period within three weeks of
taking EC, you should take a pregnancy test.
The morning-after pill can
have significant side effects. These include:
- irregular bleeding
You may also experience irregularities in your next
menstrual cycle after taking EC. Your cycle may start earlier or later than it
normally does, and you may have heavier bleeding than usual.
Ongoing and long-term birth control methods are safer and
more effective. You can take anti-nausea medication before the emergency
contraceptive pill if you are concerned about vomiting.
Where to Find the EC Pill
The emergency contraceptive pill is available for purchase at most
drugstores and healthcare centers. You do not need a prescription if you are 17
years of age or older. If you have trouble getting emergency contraception from
your pharmacy, contact your local Planned Parenthood for assistance.
Some people who are worried about contraceptive failure buy
the emergency contraceptive pill in advance. If you do this, be sure that the
pills have not expired before use.
The ParaGard Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) can be used as
emergency contraception. The device must be inserted into the uterus within
five days after unprotected sex. It is more than 99 percent effective at
preventing pregnancy. Progestin
IUDs are not recommended for emergency contraception.
The major advantage of using ParaGard as EC is that you will
continue to be protected from unwanted pregnancy. ParaGard is a highly
effective form of contraception. It can be left in place for up to 10 years.
Unlike the emergency contraceptive pill, a healthcare
provider must insert an IUD. It may be difficult to get an appointment quickly
enough. The up-front cost may also be high.