What Emergency Contraception Is:
Also Known As:
- Plan B One-Step
- Morning After Pill
- Plan B
- Next Choice
- Postcoital Contraception
Available Forms of EC:
- Plan B One-Step (a progestin-only levonorgestrel pill)
Next Choice One Dose (the generic equivalent of Plan B One-Step)
- Ella (one ulipristal acetate, 30 mg pill)
- Next Choice (the generic equivalent of Plan B)
- Oral contraceptive pills -- either progestin-only birth control pills (like Ovrette) or combined oral contraceptives.
- ParaGard IUD (a copper-releasing IUD)
How Emergency Contraception Works:
Who Should Obtain EC:
Generally speaking, almost every female who needs emergency contraception can safely use it; this even applies to women who are not good candidates to use oral contraceptives as their main form of birth control. Emergency contraception can also be used safely by adolescents.
- She miscalculated her “safe” days and had sex on a day that she may had been fertile
- She did not use any birth control during sex
- She forgot to take her normal birth control method (for examples, she missed a pill(s), did not insert her Nuvaring, or did not apply her birth control patch)
- A condom broke or slipped off during sex
- Her partner did not pull out in time
- Her diaphragm, cervical cap, or shield moved out of place during sex or she forgot to add spermicide
- She took the Today Sponge out too soon
- She was forced into having unprotected sex
When Emergency Contraception Should Be Started:
With Plan B One-Step (and its generic version, Next Choice One Dose), you only need to swallow ONE pill (Next Choice has TWO pills). You should take the pill as soon as possible. The manufacturer suggests using Plan B One-Step within 72 hours of contraceptive failure or unprotected sex —- but the sooner you take it, the more effective it'll be. However, the morning after pill may still be useful to take (hopefully to decrease your chances of pregnancy) for up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
Misconceptions About Emergency Contraception:
Emergency contraception cannot end a pregnancy or affect an existing pregnancy. Scientific and medical authorities are in agreement that emergency contraception reduces the risk of pregnancy and helps prevent the need for abortion.
- For more in-depth information about medical and federal viewpoints about emergency contraception: The Emergency Contraception (Plan B) Debate
How to Obtain Emergency Contraception:
For those girls under 17, a prescription is also needed to purchase Plan B One-Step. As a precaution, those under the age of 17 can ask their doctors about getting a prescription for EC to have just in case an emergency occurs. This way, you will already have the prescription to fill immediately and will not need to wait to get a medical appointment.
Two main factors influence the effectiveness of emergency contraception:
- The amount of time that has gone by since the incident of unprotected sex
- The point in a woman's cycle when she had sex.
All methods of emergency contraception reduce the risk of pregnancy by 75-99% when they are initiated within 72 hours.
Costs:The cost for emergency contraception varies widely and depends upon the method. Total fees can range from about $35-$60 (for Plan B One-Step), anywhere up to around $400 (to obtain ParaGard IUD). Next Choice and Next Choice One Dose are currently priced around 10-20% lower than the branded Plan B One-Step.
Side Effects:These, too, vary depending on the type of emergency contraception used. Women should discuss any major side effects with their doctor as well as if experiencing any signs of pregnancy after using emergency contraception. Some of the most common pregnancy signs include:
- Missed menstrual period
- Sore or enlarged breasts
- Frequent urination
- Unexplained fatigue
STD Protection:No emergency contraception offers protection from STDs. Women who need emergency contraception may be at more risk for these infections. Women at the most risk are those who:
- Have had unprotected sex with infected partners
- Are victims of sexual assault
- Who use IV drugs or have a partner who does
- Test Your Understanding: Take Our Emergency Contraceptive Quiz