What is Emergency Contraception?

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Get the 411 on 911 contraception. 

How does emergency contraception work?

Known as plan b or the morning after pill, emergency contraception (EC) is a backup way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex. EC pills work by giving the body a dose of hormones – similar to those found in birth control pills but stronger – that stop ovulation right away. 

When taken, emergency contraception stops an egg from being released and fertilized. EC can’t prevent the spread of STDs/HIV, end or harm an existing pregnancy – it only works for those who aren’t pregnant, which is why it’s important to use it as soon as possible.

When should emergency contraception be used?

EC can be taken whenever you have unprotected vaginal sex and aren’t ready for a pregnancy. 

Other times when EC can be taken include:

  • Not using a condom or other form of birth control
  • Not taking birth control pills regularly
  • Starting a new birth control method
  • Condom failure
  • You/your partner didn’t pull out 

What are the types of emergency contraception methods? 

EC Pills 

When using an EC pill, don’t take more than one dose or kind of pill. Taking two different EC pills may cause the ECs to counteract and not work at all.

  • Plan B One-Step – an EC pill that is the most well-known brand of EC. Other brands of Plan B are Next Choice, EContra EZ, My Way, After Pill and Levonorgestrel – all are pills that work the same way. Plan B can work up to 3 days after unprotected sex but should be taken as soon as possible, as it becomes less effective each day it isn’t taken. Plan B might not work as well if you weigh 155 pounds or more.

Plan B is available online or over the counter at most drug and grocery stores. It can also be received from a family planning provider at a discounted price. 

*For those who are breastfeeding, Plan B will not affect breastmilk. 

  • Ella – a pill that blocks the hormones your body needs to become pregnant. Ella must be prescribed by a healthcare provider and should be taken within 5 days of unprotected sex to be effective. Take Ella as soon as possible. Ella may not work as well if you weigh 195 pounds or more. 

*For those who are breastfeeding, pump and throw away your breastmilk for 24 hours after taking Ella.


  • ParaGuard IUD – a copper IUD that is one of the most effective ECs, working 99% of the time. A visit to a healthcare provider is needed to have the IUD placed inside of the uterus.  

To work as an EC, the copper IUD needs to be received within 5 days of when unprotected sex occurs. The IUD will work the same way for all, regardless of body weight. As a bonus, the copper IUD works as a birth control for up to 10 years!

*For those who are breastfeeding, the copper IUD won’t affect breastmilk.

Take control of your health by talking to your local family planning provider to discuss emergency contraceptives and other options for avoiding pregnancies. Get started at KeepRelationshipsReal.com