Emergency Contraception: Basic Info
Emergency Contraception (EC) can stop a pregnancy before it starts. (That means the EC pills are not the same as the abortion pill.) There are four types of EC to choose from and they all work up to five days (or 120 hours) after unprotected sex. But use it sooner rather than later to reduce the possibility of getting pregnant.
This is the most effective EC there is. Have a provider insert it within 5 days of a misstep and lower your chance of pregnancy by 99.9%.
Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice, EContra EZ, My Way, After Pill and Levonorgestrel. Available over the counter or online without a prescription. Similar to birth control pills, but at a much higher dose. Can work up to five days after unprotected sex, but effectiveness decreases each day.
You can use certain birth control pills as EC if you follow the Yuzpe Regimen guidelines, though it’s not as effective as other EC options. Works best up to three days following unprotected sex. After that, it’s much less effective.
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 use EC.
Withdrawal gone wrong
If you’re not sure your partner pulled out in time, that’s another reason you might think about using EC.
You got swept up in the moment
Maybe you thought you could go without birth control just this once. Maybe you didn’t think about it at all. No matter the reason, if you didn’t use any protection during sex and don’t want to get pregnant, EC might be for you—as long as it’s been less than five days since that unprotected encounter.
For scary situations
Rape is a horrible thing, but it happens. If you’ve been raped, or if you had sex with someone who refused to use another form of contraception, you may consider EC. But also, please visit RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization.
Keep some on hand
The sooner you take EC, the more effective it is. So it’s not a bad idea to keep a box of one of the EC pill varieties on hand, just in case you need it.
The EC that keeps going
If you find yourself in need of EC and want a longer-lasting solution, the Paragard IUD is the most effective EC option by far and can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex. The best part? You’ll have an easy and super-effective birth control method for up to 12 years.
Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with emergency contraception. And be sure to ask your health care provider which method is best for you.