Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties

Emergency Contraception

Your Back-up Plan.

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is birth control you can use to prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected 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.

The morning-after pill is meant to be used as a backup birth control. It is not as effective as the correct and consistent use of reversible contraception, such as the IUD, the implant, the shot, the pill, the patch, or the ring.

The copper IUD is most effective method of emergency contraception and is inserted by a health care provider.

How does it work?

Emergency contraception can be started up to 120 hours (5 days) after unprotected intercourse. The sooner it is started, the better it works.

The hormones in the emergency contraception pill keep a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation). Pregnancy can’t happen if there is no egg to join with sperm. It also prevents pregnancy by thickening a woman’s cervical mucus. The mucus blocks sperm and keeps it from joining with an egg.

Emergency contraception can also thin the lining of the uterus. In theory, this could prevent pregnancy by keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus*.

*The morning-after pill is not the abortion pill. If you are pregnant, the morning-after pill will not cause you to miscarry.

How effective is it?

Emergency contraception reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89% when started within 3 days (72 hours) after unprotected sex. It continues to reduce the risk of pregnancy up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex, but is less effective as time passes.

If you’re not on another form of birth control, you need to use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy after each time you have unprotected sex. Emergency contraception will not prevent pregnancy for any unprotected sex you may have after taking the pills.

If you don’t have your period within 3 weeks after taking emergency contraception, you may want to consider taking a pregnancy test.

Emergency contraception does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases or infections. You may want to consider getting an STD test if there’s a possibility that unprotected sex put you at risk.

Where to get it.

Emergency contraception is available at health centers and pharmacies without a prescription. It usually costs between $10 and $70. You may qualify to get emergency contraception at no cost at Planned Parenthood if you qualify for Family PACT or Medi-Cal.

When to use emergency contraception.

  • The condom broke or slipped off, and he ejaculated (came) in your vagina.
  • You forgot to take your birth control pills, insert your ring, or apply your patch.
  • Your diaphragm or cap slipped out of place, and he ejaculated (came) in your vagina.
  • You made a mistake about your “safe” days.
  • He didn’t pull out in time.
  • You weren’t using birth control.
  • You were forced to have unprotected vaginal sex.

To schedule an appointment, please call:

Orange County: 714.922.4100
San Bernardino County: 909.890.5511

Have a question?

Get your sexual/reproductive health questions answered by a certified Health Educator.

Call toll-free: 877.4ME.2ASK
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Text: 53634 (Messaging and data rates may apply)

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