Emergency contraception can be used to decrease the risk of pregnancy following unprotected sex or a known or suspected failure in your current method of birth control.
Emergency contraceptive pills do not provide ongoing protection against pregnancy! Emergency contraception is not a substitute for, and is less effective than, the consistent and correct use of an ongoing method of contraception. Emergency contraceptive pills provide no protection from sexually transmitted infections.
Several types of emergency contraception are available. Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) consist of synthetic hormones similar to those normally found in your body. Plan B One step is available over the counter without a prescription for anyone age 17 or over. It is available at the UHS pharmacy at a discounted rate.
How do I take emergency contraceptive pills? Plan B One Step is taken as soon as possible within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse. It may be taken up to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse, but effectiveness decreases as the time between intercourse and the start of ECPs increases.
How do emergency contraceptive pills work? Depending on the time in the menstrual cycle when ECPs are taken, they may delay or inhibit ovulation, interrupt fertilization or prevent implantation of a fertilized egg.
How effective is emergency contraception? The sooner a woman takes ECP after unprotected sex, the more effective it will work. If taken as directed, ECPs are up to 89% effective if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
Do emergency contraceptive pills cause an abortion? No. ECPs do not interrupt an established pregnancy. Once implantation of a fertilized egg into the woman's uterus occurs, ECPs have no effect. If you have had prior unprotected intercourse in this cycle and are already pregnant, you will remain pregnant. There is no current evidence that ECPs harm a developing fetus.
Are there side effects if I take emergency contraceptive pills? It is fairly common to have some temporary side effects, which typically subside within a day or two after the second dose. Some women may experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, headache, fatigue, dizziness or breast tenderness. Medication to reduce nausea is available in the University Health Service.
How will emergency contraceptive pills affect my period? Your menstrual period may begin on time, a few days early, or a few days late. If you do not have a period within three (3) weeks after taking emergency contraceptive pills, you should speak to your health care provider about taking a pregnancy test, as there may be a chance that you could be pregnant.
- American Sexual Health Association
- Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
- National Institutes of Health