What is emergency contraception?

Emergency Contraception (EC) is a pill you can take if you’ve had unprotected sex. It is a hormone pill that prevents the release of an egg. It does not cause abortion. EC can be taken up to 5 days after you have had unprotected sex, but it’s more effective the sooner you take it. If you are already pregnant, it doesn’t  hurt the pregnancy in any way.


  • EC is easy to get— you can get it at your local family planning clinic.
  • One form of EC, Plan B One-Step is available over the counter at all drug stores.
  • Other forms of EC are available from the pharmacist’s counter at the drug stores. In some cases, you’ll need a prescription.
  • It will not harm a pregnancy if you are already pregnant.


  • EC does not protect against STDs.
  • It can cause nausea.
  • It can be more expensive than using a regular method, especially when purchased over the counter.

Who uses emergency contraception?

People use EC when they’ve had unprotected sex or their regular form of birth control failed. It is best to take it 12 hours after unprotected sex, but can be taken up to 5 days afterward.

New research shows that the effectiveness of (some forms of) EC is significantly decreased if you have a BMI of 26 or greater. If you are unsure if this affects you, ask your health care provider or contact your local family planning health center. There are prescription options for people with a BMI of 26 or greater.

How do you use emergency contraception?

EC can be taken after unprotected sex or if your regular birth control method failed: broken/slipped condom, slipped diaphragm, etc. You can keep a packet of EC at home for emergencies.

Where do you get emergency contraception?

You can get EC — without parental consent — at your nearest family planning clinic. Anyone can get EC at the pharmacy without a prescription—there’s no age or gender requirement. Women can also get EC at the pharmacy counter, but may need to show ID (for generic, over-the-counter forms) or may need a prescription.

EC is 75% effective at preventing a pregnancy after unprotected sex. It works best if taken up to 12 hours after unprotected sex, but still works up to 5 days after unprotected sex. The chances of becoming pregnant increase with each day you wait.


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