Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties

Emergency Birth Control

Emergency Birth Control

“My boyfriend and I didn’t plan on having sex without birth control – but it happened. I was very worried about getting pregnant. So- I took the emergency birth control pill, Plan B. Then I made an appointment that same day to get on birth control so that I could better control my future.” – Annie K.

What is emergency birth control?

If you have vaginal sex without using birth control, you may be able to prevent pregnancy with emergency birth control, also called “emergency contraception”. This method can be used within 5 days after sex.

Many people call it “the morning-after pill”, but emergency contraception is also known as EC, emergency birth control, backup birth control, and by the brand names Plan B, ella, and Next Choice.

Emergency birth control is either:

  • A pill sometimes refered to as “morning after pill” or by the brand names Plan B, ella, or Next Choice
  • A copper intrauterine device (IUD), known by the brand name Paragard. The IUD is the most effective emergency birth control.

Emergency birth control prevents pregnancy. It does not cause an abortion or miscarriage.

How does it work?

Emergency birth control pill

The hormones in the pill keep a person’s ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulating). Pregnancy can’t happen if there is no egg to join with sperm. The hormones also make the mucus in the cervix thicker. The mucus blocks sperm and keeps it from joining with an egg.

When used the right way, birth control methods that last a long time and can be reversed work better than the emergency birth control pill.

Paragard IUD

The copper in the IUD kills or damages sperm, which makes it impossible for the egg and sperm to join.

How well does it work?

Emergency birth control lowers the risk of pregnancy for 5 days (120 hours) after sex. But the sooner it is used, the better it works.

Use the emergency birth control pill only after sex. It does not work when taken before sex.

If you don’t get your period within 3 weeks after using emergency birth control, you may want to take a pregnancy test.

Emergency birth control does not protect you from STIs (sexually transmitted infections). If you had sex without a condom, you may want to get an STI test.

Where to get it

You can get the emergency birth control pill at health centers and drug stores without a prescription. It usually costs between $10 and $70.

The Paragard IUD must be placed by a health provider in a health center.

If you have Family PACT or Medi-Cal, you may be able to get the emergency birth control pill or Paragard IUD for free at Planned Parenthood.

When people may want to use emergency birth control

  • The condom broke or slipped off. And your partner came (ejaculated) in your vagina.
  • You forgot to take your birth control pills, insert your ring, or put on your patch.
  • Your diaphragm or cap slipped out of place. And your partner came in your vagina.
  • You thought you couldn’t get pregnant.
  • Your partner didn’t pull out in time.
  • You weren’t using birth control.
  • You were forced to have vaginal sex without birth control.


To set up a visit at one of our health centers, please call:

Set up a visit for Emergency Birth Control at a Planned Parenthood Health Center
Orange County: (714) 922-4100
San Bernardino County: (909) 890-5511


Questions about birth control or other sexual health topics?

Chat with a trained Health Educator
Ask a trained Health Educator.

Call toll-free: (877) 4ME-2ASK
Chat online:
Text: 53634 (Messaging and data rates may apply)

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