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Roughly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, and one in nine women have used emergency contraception (EC) at least once in their lifetime. At some point, you or your partner may have to use emergency contraception. We get it, accidents happen, so here’s what you need to know about it.

When to use EC

Emergency contraception is a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy that can be used up to five days after unprotected sex. But when should you use it?

  • You didn’t use birth control when having sex
  • You forgot to take your birth control pills, patch, ring, etc.
  • Your partner’s condom broke or slipped off
  • Your partner didn’t pull out in time

How EC Works 

It can take up to six days after having sex for the sperm to meet the egg. Since pregnancy doesn’t happen right after sex, you can prevent pregnancy up to five days after unprotected sex by using emergency contraception.

Emergency contraception works by delaying ovulation. In other words, it keeps a woman’s ovary from releasing an egg for longer than usual. And if sperm can’t meet the egg, then pregnancy is NOT possible.

Types of EC

There are two types of emergency contraception: pills and the copper IUD.

  • Copper IUD – The most effective (99.9%) form of emergency contraception that can be inserted up to five days after unprotected sex. However, it must be inserted by a medical professional. A plus? It is a highly effective form of birth control that can last for up to 12 years.
  • Ulipristal Acetate Pills (also known as Ella) – The next most effective (85%) form of emergency contraception that can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex. The downsides? It is less effective for obese women (BMI over 35). It is not recommended for breastfeeding women. It also requires a prescription from a medical professional. However, unlike progestin-only pills, which are less effective on days 4 and 5. Ella is just as effective following unprotected sex on day 5 as it is on day 1.
  • Progestin-only Pills (also known as Plan B, Next Choice One Dose, etc.)  This form of emergency contraception, also known as the “morning after pill”, is 89% effective for up to three days after unprotected sex. It is less effective on days 4 and 5. It is also less effective for overweight women (BMI over 25), and it may not work for obese women with a (BMI over 35). However, this form of emergency contraception is available to purchase over the counter for anyone. You may also be able to get this form of emergency contraception at low- to no-cost at a Planned Parenthood health center near you.

What Should I Use

Since emergency contraception is more effective the sooner you take it, you may want to consider getting the “morning after pill” before you need it. That way you don’t have to wait to make a last-minute run to a drugstore or health center. You can get emergency contraception at Planned Parenthood, another health center, or at a drug store near you.

Only you know what works best for your body and lifestyle. Our medical professionals can help you make the best decision, make an appointment at a Planned Parenthood near you today.


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