Emergency Contraceptives

How They Work

Emergency contraceptives are sometimes known as the “morning-after pill.” This nickname is misleading, because the pill can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sexual intercourse occurs, not just the next morning.

Emergency contraception utilizes progestin (the same hormone found in other methods such as birth control pills, the patch and the ring) to keep the ovaries from releasing an egg, a process known as ovulation. It also thickens the woman’s cervical mucus to block sperm from reaching the egg. Lastly, it thins the lining of the uterus, making it less hospitable to implantation of a fertilized egg. Emergency contraceptives are another form of birth control, not an abortion pill. They prevent pregnancy; they cannot terminate pregnancy. This is a common misconception regarding the morning-after pill.

Emergency contraceptives should be taken after every instance of unprotected sex. Once taken, they do not prevent pregnancy that may occur from future instances of sexual intercourse.

There are many reasons that you might want to use an Emergency Contraceptive:

  • Your forgot to take your birth control pills, put on the Patch or insert the Ring.
  • The condom broke or came off, and your partner ejaculated in your vagina.
  • Your diaphragmcervical cap or sponge slipped out of place, and your partner ejaculated in your vagina.
  • Your partner did not pull out in time.
  • You may have miscalculated your safe days using the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM).
  • You did not use any birth control.
  • You were forced to have unprotected sexual intercourse or were raped.

How to Use

Plan B, Plan B One-Step and Next Choice can be purchased over the counter in drugstores, health centers and pharmacies. You can also get them at Planned Parenthood. You must be at least 17 to purchase the morning-after pill. People under 17 must go to a health center or their private health care provider for a prescription. Ella is only available with a prescription.

You must obtain emergency contraceptives as soon as possible after unprotected sex. The sooner you take them, the more effective they are at preventing pregnancy.

It may reduce nausea to take the pills with food. Sometimes there is only one pill to take; other brands require you to take two pills 12 hours apart.


Emergency contraceptives can be taken up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex occurs. However, they are most effective when taken within three days (72 hours) when they can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 89%.


The cost of emergency contraception ranges from $10 to $70.


The benefit of the emergency contraception pill is that it is a second line of defense against getting pregnant. Sometimes first methods of birth control fail – because of misuse or a faulty product. Some people may find it difficult to postpone sex when contraception isn’t available, and the morning-after pill can help ensure that does not result in pregnancy. However, emergency contraceptives are not meant for frequent use or to be used in place of regular birth control.


Approximately one in four women will have nausea or sick feelings after taking emergency contraceptives. Some women combat this with an anti-nausea medicine, which can be taken one hour before the morning-after pills. Other side effects can include

  • irregular bleeding (especially probable if morning-after pill is taken often)
  • headaches
  • breast tenderness
  • dizziness

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How effective is your birth control?

For sexually active women, he effectiveness of birth control depends on how perfectly they use it. For this reason, there are two kinds of effectiveness rates. One measurement is for perfect use, as the method is tested in the lab or used in real life with no mistakes.

The other is typical use, the average including people who don’t always use the method correctly or every time sexual intercourse takes place.

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