Emergency contraception (EC) is a pill intended for use “in case of emergency” when you don’t want to get pregnant after unprotected sex. There are a few brand names out there, and it’s commonly referred to by one of the brand names, Plan B. EC is necessary if you don’t want to become pregnant because it can take a few days after unprotected sex for a sperm and egg to fertilize, resulting in pregnancy. EC can stop sperm from meeting the egg.
But let’s back up…what is “unprotected sex”?
Unprotected sex (specifically penis-in-vagina sex) could mean a few things:
You had sex without a condom.
The condom breaks or slips off.
You missed some birth control pills and had sex without a condom during those days.
You forgot to replace your patch or ring on time, or you had sex and realized your patch or ring was missing for an unknown period of time.
There are 2 kinds of emergency contraception, a pill and the copper IUD. The copper IUD is the most effective form of emergency contraception and also acts as ongoing contraception for 12 years. It does require an in-person office visit with a provider skilled at placement. Here at Choix, we offer the pill version.
What EC is NOT:
Emergency contraception is NOT the same as an abortion pill—it won’t end/harm an existing pregnancy.
Ok so…what IS it?
It’s a pill that prevents pregnancy by keeping the ovaries from releasing eggs (also called ovulation). This means egg and sperm cannot meet. An egg and sperm need to meet in order for a pregnancy to occur.
We offer two types of EC, one made of levonorgestrel, one made of ulipristal acetate. Let’s review the differences between the two.
Ella (ulipristal acetate)
Plan B, NextChoice (levonorgestrel)
Works just as well up to 5 days after unprotected sex
Works best when taken 3 days after unprotected sex; still effective but less so on days 4-5.
Breastfeeding must be delayed; you must ‘pump and dump’ for 36 hours after taking.
Can be taken while breastfeeding.
More effective in women who are overweight.
Less effective in women who are overweight or obese (BMI>25).
Should wait to start or re-start your pill/patch/ring after use.
Can start or re-start your pill/patch/ring right away.
Side effects of EC are usually mild and go away pretty quickly. Some side effects may include:
Dizziness, headache, breast tenderness
Period coming late or early and might be heavier/lighter than usual
Bleeding between periods
Rarely, women vomit after taking emergency contraception. If this happens, you may need another dose, and we will send you more information about this if you request a prescription with our telehealth clinic.
EC is safe for most women. You should not use EC if you are pregnant. You also should not use Ella and Plan B/levonorgestrel EC within 5 days of each other, as it can make each of them less effective.
If you find yourself in need of EC frequently, reach out to us so we can help you find a method of contraception that works for you! If you want a method that we don’t offer we can point you in the direction of someone who does.