Emergency contraception is a birth control method to prevent pregnancy in women. It can be used:
Morning-after pill; Postcoital contraception; Birth control - emergency; Plan B; Family planning - emergency contraception
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 a health care provider.
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 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.
Allen RH, Kaunitz AM, Hickey M, Brennan A. Hormonal contraception. In: Melmed S, Auchus RJ, Goldfine AB, Koenig RJ, Rosen CJ, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 14th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 18.
Rivlin K, Westhoff C. Family planning. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 13.
Winikoff B, Grossman D. Contraception. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 225.
Review Date: 1/23/2020
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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