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Emergency Contraceptive Pills

Emergency contraception pills (ECP) are methods used by women after intercourse to prevent pregnancy.  ECPs work by preventing the release of an egg from the woman's ovary, preventing the egg and sperm from getting together, or preventing the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus.

ECPs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections and do not terminate pregnancies that are already attached (implanted in the uterus). If you have questions about emergency contraception (EC), see your health-care provider or ask a pharmacist.

ECPs will not protect you against future pregnancies if you continue to have unprotected vaginal intercourse in the days or weeks following treatment.  ECPs are not recommended for routine use because they are less effective than regular contraceptives.  It is recommended that you consult a Women's health-care provider to discuss your contraceptive options.

There are 3 ECPs currently availabile in the United States (US).

  • Ella (ulipristal) approved by FDA in 2010
  • PlanB One-Step (levonorgestrel)
  • My Way, generic version of Plan B One-Step

Plan B One-Step and My Way are available without a prescription from US pharmacists to women aged 17 and older.  Women 16 and younger require a prescription.  These ECPs should be used within 72 hours of unprotected vaginal intercourse, and sooner is better.  There is some concern of decreased effectiveness in overweight women.

Ella is only available with a prescription.  This ECP can be used within 120 hours of unprotected vaginal intercourse, and again sooner is better.  If this is your preference, you should discuss this option with your Women's health-care provider at your next appointment in order to obtain a prescription.

Insertion of a copper IUD has been very effective as emergency contraception.

Additional information about emergency contraception is available at The Emergency Contraception Website.

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