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What is EC? Emergency Contraception (EC, also known as ella®, Next Choice™ or Plan B®) is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or birth control failure. Emergency contraception (EC) is available when you’ve had unprotected sex or experienced a contraceptive failure (condom broke, forgot to take the pill) and want to prevent pregnancy.

EC does not harm an established pregnancy, nor will it cause an abortion. EC works by preventing the release of an egg from the ovaries or preventing its implantation in the uterus.


  • You didn’t use birth control and don’t want to get pregnant.
  • The condom broke.
  • You forgot to use birth control.
  • You were raped or forced into having sex.
  • There’s a possibility your method of birth control didn’t work.

EC is most effective if taken in the first 24 hours, and up to 89% effective if taken in the first 72 hours after unprotected sex. EC may still work up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex. The sooner you take EC, the more effective it will be. You can get EC in advance to keep in case of an emergency.

Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, Levonorgestrel Tablets are made of the progestin. Ella blocks the body’s own progestin. Both types of EC work by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs, which is ovulation. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with sperm.

EC pills should only be used in emergencies as a back-up method, and should not take the place of regular, reliable birth control.

Side effects that may occur include dizziness, headaches, breast tenderness, nausea, belly pain or period cramps or bleeding between periods. Taking EC with food can help reduce some symptoms.

EC can affect your next period. It could be early or late, lighter or heavier, or shorter or longer. It may also be the same as usual.

Taking EC does not affect your ability to become pregnant in the future.

After taking EC: Continue using your usual birth control method. You should get your period within four weeks after finishing EC. If you don’t, return to your healthcare provider for a pregnancy test and a review of your options.

EC does not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If you’ve had unprotected sex, consider scheduling an appointment for an STD test.

EC is now available without age restrictions at any Planned Parenthood location, or at a pharmacy without a prescription.

For prescription EC, make an appointment with any of our health care providers, or with a provider within your network.

Copper IUD (99% Effective)

  • The copper IUC (Paragard®) can also be used as EC. It reduces the risk of pregnancy by more than 99% if inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex. It may also be left in place to be used for birth control for up to 12 years.

•  Most effective form of EC
•  Effectiveness not changed by patient weight

•  Does not protect against STDs
•  Needs to be placed by a health care provider

Ella® (75 – 89% Effective)

  • A pill that can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

•  May prevent unintended pregnancy
•  May keep the pills on hand as backup to regular birth control method

•  May interfere with other types of birth control
•  Does not protect against STDs
•  Not recommended for people who are breastfeeding
•  Has decreased effectiveness for people weighing more than 194 lbs
•  Side effects may include irregular bleeding and nausea

EContra EZ (85 – 95% Effective)

  • A generic version of Plan B One Step that can be taken up to 3 days after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.

•  May prevent unintended pregnancy
•  May keep the pills on hand as backup to regular birth control method
•  Available over the counter without a prescription

•  Does not protect against STDs
•  Has decreased effectiveness for people weighing more than 154 lbs
•  Side effects may include irregular bleeding and nausea

Looking for the Right Birth Control Method for You?

Birth control isn’t one-size-fits-all. There are lots of different birth control methods that work in different ways. That’s where our expertise comes in.

Other Birth Control Methods


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