Emergency contraception is a way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. Often
called the morning-after pill, emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are pills that
can be taken up to 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex. Some types of
emergency contraception work best when taken within 72 hours (3 days) after intercourse.
The IUD can sometimes be used
as a form of emergency contraception.
How Does Emergency Contraception Work?
Emergency contraceptive pills work by delaying
(the release of an egg during the monthly cycle). If fertilization and
implantation have already happened, ECPs will not interrupt the pregnancy.
How Well Does Emergency Contraception Work?
About 1 or 2 in every 100 women who use ECPs will become pregnant despite taking
the pills within 72 hours after having unprotected sex.
The "morning-after" name is somewhat misleading: You don't have to wait
until the next morning to take ECPs. Emergency contraception is most effective when
taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex.
Emergency contraception will not prevent pregnancy if unprotected sex happens after
taking the ECPs.
Emergency contraception does not prevent all pregnancies. So a woman should see
a doctor if she doesn't get her next expected period after taking ECPs.
Does Emergency Contraception Help Prevent STDs?
No. Emergency contraception does not protect against STDs.
Couples having sex must always use condoms
to protect against STDs even when using another birth
Are There Any Side Effects With Emergency Contraception?
ECPs can cause some minor side effects for a few days, including:
These usually are minor, and most improve within 1 to 2 days. A girl's menstrual
be temporarily irregular after she takes ECPs.
Who Can Use Emergency Contraception?
Emergency contraception is an option for a couple if:
ECPs are also available to young women who are forced
to have unprotected sex.
Emergency contraception is not recommended:
for females who know they are pregnant
as a regular birth control method (it's designed for emergencies)
Where Is Emergency Contraception Available?
Some types of emergency contraceptive pills are available over the counter at drugstores
and pharmacies for anyone of any age without a prescription.
One type of emergency contraception (which works well up to 5 days after unprotected
sex) is only available by prescription.
An IUD used for emergency contraception needs to be placed by a doctor or
. This can be done at a doctor's office or a health clinic, like Planned
How Much Does Emergency Contraception Cost?
Depending on the type of pills prescribed, ECPs cost between $15–$70. Many health
insurance plans cover the cost of emergency contraception and family planning
clinics (such as Planned
Parenthood) charge much less.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Someone who uses emergency contraception should call the doctor if she:
might be pregnant
has a change in the smell or color of her vaginal discharge