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Birth Control Health Center

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Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception -- also called postcoital contraception -- is a form of birth control that may be used by women who have had unprotected sex or used a birth control method that failed. The treatment generally is reserved for specific situations and is not a regular method of birth control. Emergencies include being raped, having a condom break or slip off during sex, or missing two or more birth control pills during a monthly cycle. Emergency contraception is used to prevent a pregnancy, not end one. Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. It is not RU-466, the medication used to induce abortions.

Plan B One-Step is a specifically packaged emergency contraception. It is available to anyone over the counter without a prescription or age restrictions.

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It’s rare, but some women do gain a little bit of weight when they start taking birth control pills. It’s often a temporary side effect that’s due to fluid retention, not extra fat. A review of 44 studies showed no evidence that birth control pills caused weight gain in most women. And, as with other possible side effects of the pill, any weight gain is generally minimal and goes away within 2 to 3 months. If you happen to be one of those few women who put on pounds, talk to your doctor. She may...

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Ella is a non-hormonal pill. It contains ulipristal, a non-hormonal drug that blocks the effects of key hormones necessary for conception. It is available only by prescription.

How Does It Work?

Plan B One-Step emergency contraception may prevent pregnancy by temporarily blocking eggs from being released, by stopping fertilization, or by keeping a fertilized egg from becoming implanted in the uterus. Plan B One-Step is taken in one dose with one pill. Its effectiveness depends on how soon you take the pill. It should be taken as soon as possible -- within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. When Plan B One-Step is taken as directed, it can reduce the chance of pregnancy by close to 90%.

Ella can be taken up to 120 hours after sex. It is taken as one tablet in one dose.

An IUD can be inserted to prevent pregnancy. The device works by stopping implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus within 5 to 7 days after unprotected intercourse.

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