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Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception is a safe way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. There are a few types of emergency contraception, and some work better than others.

Option 1: Levonorgestrel.

  • Brand names include: Plan B One-Step, Take Action, My Way, Option 2, Preventeza, AfterPill, My Choice, Aftera, EContra, and others.

  • You can buy levonorgestrel morning-after pills over the counter without a prescription in most drugstores, and pharmacies.

  • These types of morning-after pills work best when you take them within 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex. The sooner you take them, the better they work.

  • BMI and PLAN B: If your BMI is greater than 30, Plan B and other levonorgestrel morning-after pills may not work. BMI calculator

  • The results of a large European study show that Plan B loses its potency in women weighing over 165 pounds and does not work at all in women weighing 175 pounds or more. Since the average weight of a woman in the U.S. is 166.2 pounds according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most women who use Plan B as their EC are taking a bit of a gamble.  

Option 2:  IUD 

  •  This is the most effective type of emergency contraception.

  • The copper IUD works as well on day one as it does on day five.


Option 3: Ella

  • The newest form of emergency contraception.

  • Take within 5 days after having unprotected sex.

  • You need a prescription from a doctor to get Ella emergency contraception, but you can get a fast medical consultation and prescription with next-day delivery online.

  • You can take Ella up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex — but it’s best to take it as soon as you can.

  • If you weigh 195 pounds or more, Ella may work less well.

When to use emergency contraception:

  • you didn’t use a condom or other birth control method when you had vaginal sex

  • you made a mistake with your regular birth control (forgot to take your birth control pills, change your patch or ring, or get your shot on time) and had vaginal sex

  • your condom broke or slipped off after ejaculation (cumming)

  • your partner didn't pull out in time

  • you were forced to have unprotected vaginal sex

If you use emergency contraception correctly after you have unprotected sex, it makes it much less likely that you’ll get pregnant. Emergency contraception pills are safe, don’t cause any long-term side effects, and won’t affect your ability to get pregnant in the future. But using them as your only regular birth control isn’t a great idea because they’re not as effective — or as affordable — as regular, non-emergency birth control methods.

Is the morning-after pill safe?

Morning-after pills are safe — millions of people have used different kinds of emergency contraception for more than 30 years. There have been no reports of serious complications. Morning-after pills don’t cause any long-term side effects, and they won’t change your ability to get pregnant in the future.

How many times can I use the morning-after pill?

Taking the morning-after pill multiple times is safe and won’t hurt you. But it’s not a good idea to use the morning-after pill as your regular, go-to method of birth control.

Don’t use two different kinds of morning-after pills (like Plan B and Ella) at the same time or within five days of each other, because they may counteract each other and not work at all. 

One of the most convenient things about getting a Paragard (copper) IUD as emergency contraception is that it keeps giving you super-effective birth control for up to 12 years (or until you want it taken out). So once you get an IUD, you won’t have to worry about pregnancy again (until you stop using the IUD).

How does emergency contraception work?

Pregnancy doesn't happen right after you have sex — that's why it's possible to prevent pregnancy a few days after you do it. It’s all about timing.

Sperm can live inside your body for up to six days after sex, waiting for an egg to show up. Morning-after pills work by temporarily stopping your ovary from releasing an egg. It’s kind of like pulling the emergency brake on ovulation. Where you’re at in your menstrual cycle and how soon you take morning-after pills can affect how well they prevent pregnancy. Morning-after pills won’t work if your body has already started ovulating.


The Paragard IUD prevents pregnancy for up to five days after unprotected sex because sperm don’t like copper. So the copper in the Paragard IUD makes it hard for sperm to swim well enough to get to your egg.

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