Your birth control method
failed. Maybe you forgot to take your pill or get your shot, the condom broke
or came off, or your diaphragm slipped.
You were sexually assaulted. Even if
you were using birth control, emergency contraception can help decrease your chance of getting pregnant.
If you had sex without birth control, there is a chance
that you could get pregnant. This is true even if you have not started having
periods yet or you are getting close to
menopause. You could also get pregnant if you used a
birth control method that is not very reliable or if you didn't use it the
By Amy Engeler
At 3 a.m., with all the houses dark up and down her winding suburban street in West Warwick, Rhode Island, Jo-Ann Frey, 37, lights a candle so she can see well enough to dust her furniture. Careful not to turn on any lights or make noise that might wake up her family, she drifts from room to room with her candle and cleaning supplies, waiting until she feels sleepy enough to climb back into bed. That feeling doesn't come -- and when she hears the alarm in the bedroom go off...
Using emergency contraception right away can prevent an
unwanted pregnancy and keep you from worrying while you wait for your next
period to start.
What are the types of emergency contraception?
There are two main types of emergency contraception: pills and the copper
intrauterine device (IUD). Most women choose pills
because they work well, don't cost a lot, and are usually easy to get. The IUD
works very well, but it has to be inserted by a doctor.
Emergency contraception pills: Pills used for emergency
contraception are sometimes called "morning-after pills." They can be used at
any time up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but the sooner, the better.
Another option is a medicine called ulipristal (for example, Ella) that affects the progesterone in your body.
Some birth control pills are also used. These often contain a combination of
the hormones estrogen and progestin. If you already take
birth control pills, you may be able to use the pills you have as emergency
contraception. Talk to your doctor or check the websites listed below for the
IUDIUD: The copper IUD is a
small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your uterus. The IUD is
wrapped in copper, which helps kill sperm. It can be placed up to 5 to 7 days
after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy. (Note: The hormonal IUD, such as the Mirena, is not used
for emergency contraception.)
How does it work?
Emergency contraception pills
work by preventing ovulation, fertilization, or implantation.
Emergency contraception hormones may prevent fertilization by stopping
the ovary from releasing an egg (ovum). They also make the fallopian tubes less
likely to move an egg toward the uterus. Emergency contraception is also
thought to thin the lining of the uterus, or
endometrium. The thickened endometrium is where a
fertilized egg would normally implant and grow.
The copper IUD for emergency contraception may work by killing sperm, preventing fertilization, or preventing implantation.