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Progestin Only Emergency Contraception


Updated July 07, 2008

Progestin Only Emergency Contraception

Ovrette Emergency Contraception

Photo © GSM


A type of progestin-only pill (such as Ovrette) which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for emergency contraception.

What It Is:

Ovrette consists of twenty pills; the pills contains the progestin hormone norgestrel. The pills can be taken 12 hours apart or at the same time. Therefore, this would require a woman to take 20 Ovrette® oral contraceptive pills. She then would have to take another dose of 20 pills, 12 hours later.

How to Obtain:

Ovrette® requires a prescription from a medical doctor, regardless to one’s age.

When to Use:

Progestin-only emergency contraceptive pills can be initiated up to 5 days (120) hours after unprotected intercourse or contraceptive failure.

Side Effects:

There have been no reports of serious complications among the millions of women who have used emergency contraception. Side effects caused by progestin-only emergency contraception will usually decrease within one – two days. These side effects include:
  • Nausea and vomiting – although the risk for this is much lower with progestin-only EC (versus combination EC). Nausea occurs approximately 23% of the time while vomiting happens in approximately 6% of progestin-only EC users.

  • A woman may experience breast tenderness due to EC

  • Dizziness and/or headaches are also common
  • EC may change the amount, duration, and/or timing of a female’s next period about 10-15% of the time. This side effect is typically minor, and menstruation will usually occur a few days earlier or later than anticipated.

  • Frequent use of EC may cause periods to become irregular and unpredictable.

  • Emergency contraception, like other contraceptives, may decrease the risk of ectopic pregnancy. However, to be cautious, a woman should inform her healthcare provider that she had taken emergency contraception should she become pregnant following its use, so her doctor can test for the existence of an ectopic pregnancy.


Progestin only EC is most effective the sooner it is started. Studies have shown that a single administration of two full doses progestin-only birth EC is just as effective as taking 2 doses, 12 hours apart.

If started within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, progestin only EC reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89%. Of every 100 women who use this method, only 1 woman will become pregnant.

EC will not continue to prevent pregnancy during the rest of a woman’s cycle, so additional contraceptive methods should be used.


Two packs of progestin-only pills will cost between $30-$80. This is in addition to the costs associated with doctor’s visits in order to obtain the prescription for the EC.

STD Protection:

Progestin only EC offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.
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