Using Emergency Contraception (EC)

What is Emergency Contraception (EC) (the morning after pill) and how does it work?

Emergency contraception (EC) is birth control that prevents pregnancy after sex, which is why it is sometimes called “the morning after pill.”  EC prevents pregnancy by stopping the release of an egg (it stops ovulation so the sperm cannot fertilize an egg).

Emergency contraception does not work if the egg is already fertilized, or if a woman if already pregnant. EC does not cause an abortion and is safe for all women to use.

When should I use the morning after pill?

EC is recommended if you’ve had unprotected sex but you don’t want to become pregnant. It works best if it taken right away – but it can be taken up to five days after sex.

Here are some common reasons that women use the morning after pill after having unprotected sex:

  • She did not use any birth control.
  • The condom broke or slipped off.
  • She forgot to take birth control pills or was late for the Depo shot.
  • She was forced to have sex.

How do I get emergency contraception?

Anyone (male or female) can purchase a brand of EC called “Plan B One-Step.” This brand of EC is available over-the-counter (this means no prescription required), with no ID required.

There are other types of emergency contraception pills that are available to people over the age of 17 and/or with a prescription from your health provider.

How do I use the morning after pill?

  1. Get EC and take it as soon as possible after sex (follow the directions on the package).
  2. If you do not get your period in the next two to three weeks, be sure to check a pregnancy test to see if you are pregnant.

What are the side effects of emergency contraception?

EC products like Next Choice, Plan B One-Step and EllaOne have very few side effects. These pills do not contain the hormone estrogen (they only contain the hormone progestin) and so nausea/vomiting is unlikely.

Women who use EC may have irregular bleeding; their period may come a week early or a week late.

Can I use “regular” birth control pills for emergency contraception?

ONLY certain brands of birth control pills can be used for EC. Using birth control pills for EC causes more side effects (especially nausea and vomiting). Your provider can talk to you about this option if needed.

Learn more about birth control options