Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception can stop a pregnancy before it starts. (That means it’s not the abortion pill.) It works up to five days, or 120 hours, after unprotected sex, but take it sooner rather than later to reduce the possibility of getting pregnant.

There are three types of Emergency Contraception:


The newest form of EC in the U.S. is a one-pill formula available by prescription only. Ella blocks the hormones your body needs to conceive. This is completely effective for 5 days after unprotected sex. Effectiveness: Ella 70%.

Plan B/Next Choice

This is available over-the-counter without a prescription if you’re 17 or older. It works like birth control pills, but at a much higher dose and taken temporarily. It works up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but effectiveness decreases each day. Next Choice is a two-pill formula where you take one right away and the second within 12 hours. The newer version, called Plan B-One Step, is a bit more expensive but is just one pill. Effectiveness: Plan B 50%.


This is the most effective EC there is. Have a doctor insert it within 5 days of a misstep and lower your chance of pregnancy. Effectiveness: IUD 95%.

When Might You Need It?

Swept up in the moment

Maybe it was because of alcohol. Maybe you thought you could go without birth control just this once. Maybe you didn’t think at all. No matter the reason, if you didn’t use any protection during sex and now wish you had, EC might be right for you – as long as it’s been fewer than 5 days since you had that unprotected encounter.

You had a “whoops” moment with your contraception

If the condom broke, or you forgot to take your pill, insert your ring, apply your patch, or if your diaphragm slipped – anything like that – you may want to take EC.

Withdrawal gone wrong

If he didn’t pull out in time, that’s another reason for EC.

For scary situations. If you are a victim of we URL assault please seek care as soon as possible in the ER.

If you’ve been raped, or you had sex with someone who refused to use another form of contraception, consider EC.

Keep some on hand

The sooner you take EC, the more effective it is. It’s not a bad idea to keep a box on hand, just in case you need it. EC has a shelf life of up to 3 years.

How much does it cost?

Over-the-counter, for women and men over 17 years old, EC costs $35. You will need a prescription if you are younger than 17, so cost varies based on insurance.

Where can I get it?

Emergency Contraception is available over the counter for women and men 17 and older – no appointment needed.

What are the side effects of Emergency Contraceptives?

Positive “side effects?” You bet. There are actually a lot of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.

  • Offers protection and peace of mind after a “whoops” moment.
  • It’s safe to use. Women have been using it for 30 years.
  • Some EC options don’t have the same potential negative side effects as the pill, because you don’t take it continuously.
  • Even women who can’t usually use hormonal methods for medical reasons can use EC once in a while.

Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many women, they’re not a problem. And if you do experience side effects with EC, they’ll probably go away after 24 hours.

  • Can cause an upset stomach and vomiting.
  • Could cause breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, dizziness, and headaches.
  • Frequent use can lead to irregular periods.