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The Paragard IUD is the most effective type of emergency contraception. It works up to 5 days after unprotected sex, and it keeps on preventing pregnancy for up to 12 years.

How effective is the Paragard IUD as emergency contraception?

The Paragard (copper) IUD lowers your chances of getting pregnant by more than 99.9 percent if you get it put in within 5 days of unprotected sex. It’s the most effective kind of emergency contraception there is. And unlike morning-after pills, it works the same no matter how much you weigh. To see which EC makes the most sense for you, take our quiz.

One of the most convenient things about getting an IUD as emergency contraception is that it keeps giving you super-effective birth control for up to 12 years (or until you want it taken out). So once you get an IUD, you won’t have to think about emergency contraception again until you stop using the IUD.

How do I use the IUD as emergency contraception?

In order for the copper IUD to work as emergency contraception, a doctor or nurse must put it in within 5 days after you have unprotected sex. Call your doctor, local family planning clinic, or your nearest Planned Parenthood health center as soon as you realize you need emergency contraception. It can be hard to get an appointment for a Paragard insertion on short notice, so call as quickly as possible.

At your appointment, a doctor or nurse will put the copper IUD into your uterus, and that’s it — you don’t have to do anything else. The copper in the Paragard IUD prevents pregnancy by messing with the way sperm moves, so it’s hard for sperm to swim well enough to get to an egg.

Once the IUD is in place, you get great emergency contraception AND long-lasting birth control all at once.  Learn more about the IUD.

If you can’t get an appointment to have an IUD put in within 5 days after you have unprotected sex, take a morning-after pill like ella or Plan B as soon as possible. Morning-after pills aren’t as effective at preventing pregnancy as the IUD is, but they’re definitely better than doing nothing at all.

What are the Paragard side effects?

Serious problems with the IUD are rare, and millions of people have used it safely.

Some people have annoying but harmless side effects after getting an IUD. They usually go away in about 3 – 6 months, once your body gets used to having the IUD in your uterus.

Side effects of the copper IUD can include:

  • mild to moderate pain when the IUD is put in

  • cramping or backaches for a few days after you get the IUD put in

  • spotting between periods

  • heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps

Pain medicine (like Advil or Tylenol) can usually help with cramping. Read more about IUD safety and side effects.

Where can I get an IUD?

Contact your gynecologist, a family planning clinic, or your local Planned Parenthood health center to make an appointment to get an IUD.

Getting an IUD costs anywhere between $0 to $1,300. That’s a pretty wide range, but the good news is that IUDs are free or low cost with many health insurance plans, Medicaid, and some other government programs. And even if an IUD costs a lot up front, they usually end up saving you money in the long run because they give you really effective birth control for up to 12 years.

Planned Parenthood works to provide you with the services you need, whether or not you have insurance. Many Planned Parenthood health centers charge less for services depending on your income. If you’re worried about cost, check with your local Planned Parenthood health center to see if they can hook you up with emergency contraception and other birth control that fits your budget.

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