If you had unprotected sex and don't want to get pregnant right now, you may want emergency contraception. Like other forms of birth control, emergency contraception stops you from getting pregnant. The difference is that you can take it after you had sex. Emergency contraception pills are different from drugs used to end a pregnancy.
Emergency contraception works well, but it's not a substitute for regular birth control. Regular birth control works better, has fewer side effects, and costs less. As the name suggests, emergency birth control is only for emergencies, not something to use all the time.
Birth control pills aren't for everyone. If you've forgotten your pills too
many times -- or can't take them -- there are plenty of options.
The birth control patch (Ortho Evra), vaginal ring (NuvaRing), and three
types of birth control implants (Mirena, Implanon, and Essure) offer long-term
birth control that is virtually hassle-free for months, years, or forever.
If pregnancy is still a future possibility for you, make your choice
carefully. With Ortho Evra, NuvaRing, and Mirena, fertility...
Most types are pills. Examples include Ella (ulipristal acetate) and Plan B One-Step (levonorgestrel.) You can also buy generic levonorgestrel pills, like My Way and Next Choice One Dose.
An IUD -- a small device that a doctor inserts in your uterus -- also works as emergency contraception.
How long after having sex will emergency contraception still work?
That depends. Plan B One-Step and generic levonorgestrel work best if you take them within 3 days after sex, but they may work up to 5 days after sex. Ella and the IUD can work up to 5 days after sex. However, those are only averages. What really matters is where you are in your cycle. If you have sex when you're fertile, waiting several days to take emergency contraception could be too late. That's why experts say you should use it as soon as possible after having sex.
Where can I get it?
Emergency contraception is available at drugstores, health departments, women's health centers, and hospitals. Depending on your age, you don’t need a prescription for most brands. You do need a prescription for Ella and some other types.
Can anyone buy over-the-counter emergency contraception pills?
In 2013, the FDA allowed pharmacies to sell one brand, Plan B One-Step, without a prescription, over-the-counter, without any age restrictions. But not all pharmacies are selling it that way yet.
Other types of over-the-counter emergency contraception, like My Way and Next Choice One Dose, have age restrictions. You need to have ID showing that you're 17 or older too. If you're 16 or younger, you need a prescription.
How much will it cost?
Prices vary from store to store. A survey found that the average cost for Plan B One-Step is $48. Generic levonorgestrel is a little cheaper at $42. But you might find prices that are much lower or higher. If you have insurance, prescription pills should cost less because you have to pay only the copay.
What are the side effects? Is it safe?
Emergency contraception is safe. Most people don't have any side effects from the pills. But you may have mild ones, like nausea, mild stomach pain, and headache. If you have severe nausea, your doctor may be able to give you medicine that helps. You may also have spotting, and your next period may come a few days earlier or later.