Emergency contraception is a birth control method to prevent pregnancy in women. It can be used:
Emergency contraception most likely prevents pregnancy in the same way as regular birth control pills:
The two ways you may receive emergency contraception are by:
CHOICES FOR EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION
Two emergency contraceptive pills may be bought without a prescription.
Ulipristal acetate (Ella) is a new type of emergency contraception pill. You will need a prescription from a health care provider.
Birth control pills may also be used:
IUD placement is another option:
MORE ABOUT EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTIVE PILLS
Women of any age can buy Plan B One-Step and Next Choice at a pharmacy without a prescription or visit to the doctor.
Emergency contraception works best when you use it within 24 hours of having sex. However, it may still prevent pregnancy for up to 5 days after you first had sex.
You should not use emergency contraception if:
Emergency contraception may cause side effects. Most are mild. They may include:
After you use emergency contraception, your next menstrual cycle may start earlier or later than usual. Your menstrual flow may be lighter or heavier than usual.
Sometimes, emergency contraception does not work. However, research suggests that emergency contraceptives have no long-term effects on the pregnancy or developing baby.
OTHER IMPORTANT FACTS
You may be able to use emergency contraception even if you cannot regularly take birth control pills. Talk to your health care provider about your options.
Emergency contraception should not be used as a routine birth control method. It does not work as well as most types of birth control.
Morning-after pill; Postcoital contraception; Birth control - emergency; Plan B
Eisinger SH, Smith EA. Emergency contraception. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowlder GC, eds. Pfenninger & Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2011:chap 129.
"Morning after" emergency contraception. In: Buttaravoli P, Leffler SM, eds. Minor Emergencies. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 92.
Jensen JT, Mishell DR. Family planning: contraception, sterilization, and pregnancy termination. In: Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Katz VL, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 13.
Amy JJ, Tripathi V. Contraception for women: an evidence based overview. BMJ. 2009;339:b2895.doi:10.1136/bmj.b2895.
Armstrong C. ACOG recommendations on emergency contraception. Am Fam Physician. November 15, 2012;82(10):1278.
Updated by: Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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