Emergency Contraception

Emergency Contraception (EC) is a pill that works up to 5 days after unprotected sex. Some IUDs can be used as EC, too.

If you have vaginal sex without using birth control or if your birth control method fails, you can still try to prevent pregnancy by using Emergency Contraception (EC). EC works up to 5 days after unprotected sex. The sooner you use EC, the lower your chances are of getting pregnant.

There are two types of pills: one has ulipristal acetate (similar to progestin) and one has progestin. The pill delays ovulation (keeping an egg from leaving an ovary) during the time when sperm might still be alive in the fallopian tubes. The pill with ulipristal acetate is more effective in people of all weights, though both types of EC may lose effectiveness in people with higher weights.

EC is not the same as abortion – it will not stop a pregnancy that has already started.

How effective is it against pregnancy?

  • Typical use: Prevents pregnancy 58 – 94% of the time
  • Perfect use: Prevents pregnancy 85 – 99% of the time
  • Using emergency contraception correctly increases its effectiveness. If you use emergency contraception perfectly, it is about 85-99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

How to Use:

  • You need a prescription for the pill containing ulipristal acetate (brand name ellaⓇ)
  • You can buy progestin pills over the counter without a prescription (brands including Plan B One StepⓇ and others)
  • The sooner you take it, the better – it is most effective within 3 days of having unprotected sex, but you can take it up to 5 days after having unprotected sex
  • If the pack contains 2 pills, take both together


  • Can be used while breastfeeding
  • Available at pharmacies and health centers over the counter, or from a healthcare professional (call ahead to be sure they have it)
  • People of any age can get progestin EC without a prescription


  • May cause stomach upset or nausea
  • Your next period may come early or late
  • May cause spotting
  • May be expensive
  • Does not protect against HIV or other STIs – use a condom with this method

Quick Exit
Link copied