Emergency contraception, sometimes called EC, Plan B (a brand name), or the morning after pill, is birth control that is used after sex to prevent pregnancy. Someone might take EC if they had unprotected sex or if their regular method of birth control failed or wasn’t used correctly. EC is NOT the same as the abortion pill. EC prevents a pregnancy from happening and does not affect an already existing pregnancy.
Learn more about different emergency contraception options:
Plan B is the brand name of the most common EC pill. Sometimes there are also generic (or another brand that is less well known) versions as well. Plan B is usually one pill that someone can take up to three days or 72 hours after having unprotected sex, but it works best if taken as soon as possible. Plan B is available to ANYONE over the counter at a pharmacy or drugstore. You can also get it at a clinic. It’s a good idea to have EC on hand in case you or someone you know needs it.
NOTE: If someone weighs over 165 pounds, they can still take Plan B, but it might be less effective. There are also other options, like the Paraguard IUD, that are not effected by someone’s weight.
Ella is another brand name for a different type of EC pill. Ella can be taken up to 5 days or 120 hours after sex, but is most effective if taken sooner. It’s not sold over the counter so you’ll need to get Ella from a doctor, clinic, or health care provider. Since it is most effective if taken as soon as possible, you can always ask your doctor for a pack of ELLA to have on hand when you need it.
NOTE: If someone weighs over 195 pounds they can still take Ella but it might be less effective. There are also other options, like the Paraguard IUD, that are not effected by someone’s weight.
Paraguard, or the copper IUD, can also be used as emergency contraception. Someone who wants to use Paraguard for emergency contraception should have it inserted within five days, or 120 hours, after having unprotected sex. You will need to go to a clinic or doctor to have this method inserted into the uterus. Be sure to let them know that you are using the IUD as emergency contraception so you can get an appointment as quickly as possible. Once Paraguard is inserted, it can be used as birth control for up to 12 years.
Things to Remember
- California teens do NOT need permission from parents or care givers to get EC, but it can always be helpful to talk to a trusted adult about your health care.
- EC is available without a prescription at most pharmacies (ask your local pharmacy if they carry it), but you will have to pay for it. Plan B can cost around $50 but a generic version may be cheaper.
- You can get EC for FREE at a clinic! Find a clinic near you.
- EC does not prevent against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms can be used on their own or with another method of birth control to prevent pregnancy and STIs. You can find free condoms near you.
- Since EC is best if taken as soon as possible, it is always a good idea to have some on hand in case you or someone you know needs it.
- If you want to learn more, visit TeenSource or a clinic!