Emergency contraception, or emergency birth control, is a safe way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex (sex without using birth control).
“Unprotected” can mean that no method of birth control was used. It can also mean that a birth control method was used but did not work (like a condom breaking). Or, a person may have forgotten to take their birth control pills, or may have been forced to have sex when they did not want to.
Things to know about using emergency contraception:
- Emergency contraception should not be used as regular birth control. Other birth control methods are much better at preventing pregnancy.
- After you use EC, you must take extra care to use birth control every time you have sex, especially until you get your next period (if you choose to get the copper IUD as your EC method, you don’t have to worry about this).
- If you have unprotected sex again, be sure to take EC again (again, if you get the copper IUD, you don’t have to worry about this).
- You have the best chance of taking an EC pill immediately after unprotected sex if you have it on hand before you need it. Get it today and always keep it handy, if possible.
- EC never protects against STDs or HIV. Always use a condom.
- EC is safe and effective when taken according to directions.
- Don’t use two different kinds of EC pills (for example, Plan B and ella) at the same time or within 5 days of each other. They can counteract each other and, as a result, not work at all.
- Emergency birth control DOES NOT cause an abortion. It will not work if you are already pregnant.
When to get/take emergency contraception:
- For Plan B and all other EC pills that contain levonorgestrel (so all pills except ella):
- The sooner you take it, the better it will work. So take it the day after you have unprotected sex if you can, or try to take it within 72 hours. However, you can still take it up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
- For the ella pill:
- You can take it up to 5 days after unprotected sex, and it works just as well on day 5 as it does on day 1.
- For the copper IUD:
- Get it within 5 days after unprotected sex.
For more information on emergency contraception, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions.