Emergency contraception (also known as EC or the morning after pill) works to prevent pregnancy in the case of unprotected intercourse. For maximum effectiveness, EC should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. However, EC may be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of unprotected intercourse.
Emergency contraception is taken by women to prevent pregnancy, although men 15 and older may purchase the medication over the counter on behalf of their female sexual partners.
You might consider using EC if:
Intercourse during your most fertile days can result in pregnancy up to 30% of the time. Using emergency contraception can reduce your chance of becoming pregnant by about 75 to 89%. If you are already pregnant, EC will not end your pregnancy.
EC is thought to work by preventing the egg from leaving the ovary or keeping the sperm from connecting with the egg. However, the exact mechanism is not known. Most research suggests that EC is effective before conception occurs.
There are a number of emergency contraception options on the market, most of which are available over the counter (without a doctor's prescription) to those 15 and older. For example, Hall Health Pharmacy carries Plan B One-Step.
No serious complications have been associated with EC. It is not indicated for women with a possible pregnancy, abnormal vaginal bleeding or an allergy to the ingredients in this medication. A pelvic exam and/or a pregnancy test may be done if you are concerned that you might be pregnant or have undiagnosed vaginal bleeding.
There is no evidence to suggest emergency contraception causes birth defects if emergency contraception fails or if you were already pregnant. Emergency contraception does not affect future pregnancies.
Certain drugs or herbal products (e.g., St. John's Wort) may decrease the effectiveness of EC.
EC is approved for sale through pharmacies without a prescription. Although it is intended to be taken by women, women or men age 15 or older may purchase it. Women under 15 years of age need a prescription from their provider.
To get EC at a pharmacy, you will have to ask the pharmacist for it, as emergency contraception is kept behind the pharmacy counter. You will be asked to show proof that you are age 15 or over. Any government-issued ID is acceptable proof of age and it does not need to be a photo ID. Females under the age of 15 will need a prescription for Emergency Contraception from their doctor.
The Hall Health Center Pharmacy has EC available, but is only open from Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm
Depending on your eligibility, Planned Parenthood or Public Health Seattle & King County may be able to enroll you in a government program to help pay for the cost of EC. Private health insurance typically does not cover the cost of over-the-counter products like EC.
Hall Health's website offers information on the pill, progestin-only pills, Depo Provera, NuvaRing, the Patch, the IUD, the Implant and the diaphragm. You can also find information about when you need a Pap Test, HPV, chlamydia and genital herpes.
Bedsider.org provides information about many different birth control methods
Planned Parenthood's website offers information on the effectiveness of different birth control methods
Authored by: Ingrid Helsel, RN