Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (“EC”, also known as “emergency birth control”) is used to prevent a pregnancy AFTER a woman has had unprotected sex. EC prevents pregnancy in one of three ways. (1) It prevents the egg from leaving the ovary; (2) it stops the sperm from reaching the egg; or, (3) it keeps the fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (uterus). Emergency contraception is not an “abortion pill”. It does NOT work if you are already pregnant.

Use Emergency Contraception If:

  • You had unprotected sex at a time when you may become pregnant (this is usually the 2 nd -3 rd week of a 4 week cycle, if your periods are regular).

  • You were using a condom but it broke or came off.

  • You were using the withdrawal method, and he didn’t pull out in time.

  • You missed two or more birth control pills in a row.

  • You were late getting your birth control shot.

Two Types Of Emergency Contraception Available:

  • Plan-B (oral medicine)

    • Plan B is the only oral medicine sold as an emergency contraceptive in the U.S. Plan B is sometimes called the “morning after pill.” This name is misleading because they can work up to five days after having sex, not just the morning after.

    • NOTE: A high dose of certain brands of birth control pills (BCPs) can also be used as an EC pill when Plan B is not available. BCPs require a prescription.

    • Plan B is sold over-the-counter to women who are 18 years of age or older. Women under the age of 18 need a prescription.

    • Some women develop nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness and headache after taking the Plan B pill. Medicine can be prescribed to prevent or treat the nausea.

    • Plan B does NOT protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). A condom must always be used to protect against STDs, even when another method of birth control is used.

  • Insertion of an Intrauterine device (IUD)

    • When an IUD is used as a form of EC, it must be inserted into the uterus by a doctor within 5 days after having unprotected sex. The IUD can be removed after your next period or left in place for ongoing birth control. (This method is rarely prescribed for teens due to the risk of pelvic infection.)

How Effective Is Emergency Contraception?

If you have “unprotected sex” (with no birth control method) during the fertile part of your cycle (2 nd -3 rd week after the start of your last period), there is about a 10% chance of getting pregnant. EC methods are very effective in preventing pregnancy. The sooner you take the pill after sex, the better your chances are that it will work.

  • When using Plan-B, only 1 out of 100 women (1%) having unprotected sex in the fertile time of their cycle will get pregnant.

  • When using high dose birth control pills, only 2 out of 100 women (2%) would get pregnant.

  • When an IUD is inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex, only 1 out of 1000 women (0.1%) would get pregnant if they had sex in the fertile time of their cycle. So, this is the most certain way to avoid pregnancy after unprotected sex.

Home Care:

  • Take the Plan-B or birth control pills, along with any medicine prescribed to control nausea, exactly as directed.

  • Call your doctor or pharmacist if you vomit after taking the EC pills.

  • Use another birth control method if you have sex any time before your next period starts.

  • If you do not get your period in 3 weeks, use a home pregnancy test or go to your doctor to find out if you are pregnant.

  • If you are not using a regular contraception method talk to your doctor or Family Planning Clinic about what method is best for you.

  • Do not rely on EC as a form a regular birth control.

Follow Up

with your doctor or as advised by our staff.

  • National Women’s Health Information Center (800) 994-9662

  • Emergency Contraception Hotline
    (888) 668-2528

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Lower abdominal or back pain

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding

  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting when standing

  • Heavy vaginal bleeding (soaking one pad an hour for three hours)

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider