The Morning After

We all make mistakes. Perhaps you forgot to take your Pill, or you didn't want to ask your new boyfriend to use a condomAccidents happen. Perhaps a condom broke or slipped off. Perhaps you had a migraine and threw up shortly after taking your Pill. Bad things happen. Perhaps your birth control failed, even though you did everything right. Perhaps someone slipped something in your drink and you ended up having sex with him without really meaning too. Perhaps someone raped you.

The Morning-After Pill

Emergency contraception, commonly called the morning-after pill, can actually be used between three to five days, up to 120 hours, after unprotected sex, depending on the brand. As no morning after pill is 100% foolproof, the sooner you take an emergency contraceptive pill the more effective it will be.

Over The Counter

Plan B One-Step and Next Step morning-after pills work for around 72 hours after unprotected sex and are available without a prescription over the counter from drug store or health centers. A new emergency contraceptive recently approved by the FDA called 'ella' works for 5 days and is only available with a prescription from a doctor. However, if you are under 17 you need a prescription regardless of the brand.

It is better to discuss your contraceptive needs with a sympathetic doctor, but emergencies happen. Some people recommend keeping EC on hand in case of an emergency in the same way you keep aspirin in your medicine cabinet. However, EC isn't something to use instead of regular contraception, not to mention at around $10 to $70 a pop it could turn out to be expensive too!

How Does It Work?

All EC pills use a large dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy occurring. Depending on where you are in your cycle when you take the EC and the brand you use, EC can prevent ovulation, prevent fertilization or thin the womb lining preventing implantation. Some people are against EC because if it alters the womb lining; this results in the death of the embryo, making it like an early abortion device. Other people consider it just another form of contraception.

Side Effects

Because of the high doses of hormones involved you may experience side effects. These can include nausea, vomiting, breast tenderness, erratic bleeding, headaches and dizziness. If your symptoms are severe or you have chest or leg pains, severe stomach cramps, or vision problems see your doctor immediately and say you recently took EC.


Another form of EC is to have a copper IUD fitted to prevent pregnancy within 5 days of unprotected sex. The IUD does not prevent ovulation, and in many cases may cause the death of an embryo before implantation.


Emergency contraception isn't as effective as the Pill and doesn't protect you from STD's either. So if you find yourself having a lot of 'emergencies' in year, you need to look at your lifestyle and consider using a different type of contraceptive. If you normally take the Pill but regularly 'forget', or you are reluctant to ask your boyfriend to use a condom, you need to see a doctor to discuss other methods of contraception.

If you are facing a possible unplanned pregnancy, call a pregnancy center hotline, such as OptionLine, at 800-395-4357. They can give you the number a center near you where you can get a free pregnancy test.


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Ok I need some help here...The first day of my last period was Dec.31/Jan.1. (I started in the middle of the night so I'm not real sure which day it was. I have a very regular 28 day cycle and tend to be very fertile...(one month after I quit nursing my son I had unprotected sex with my husband on the 14th day of my cycle and baby number two was on the way). Whelp...I'm worried we did it again. We had unprotected sex on January 12 (which is during my ovulation time). I didn't realize he had ejaculated inside of me until he apologized when we were cleaning up. (He didn't know what day it was in my cycle). I did not find much sperm when I was cleaning myself up, but I did freak out. I ran to Walgreens and got Next Step pill and took it within two hours....maybe even one hour.... Now I am worried sick that I am pregnant again. What are the chances and when should I start???
4 years ago