Unintended pregnancy is surprisingly common. At least half of all pregnancies in the United States each year are mistimed or unplanned, because birth control measures were not used or those that were used did not work. An emergency contraceptive pill is available to provide women with another option for preventing unintended pregnancy
There are many options for birth control, but there are also products that have been developed specifically for use
in an emergency.
Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy in a variety of ways. Depending on the time of the month in a woman's cycle, the drug may prevent ovulation (release of the egg from the ovary), interfere with fertilization, or prevent a fertilized egg from attaching in the uterus. They will not induce an abortion if a woman is already pregnant, according to the definition of pregnancy used by the National Institutes of Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Pregnancy Prevention—Nearly 90%
If taken within 72 hours, emergency contraceptive pills reduce the chance of pregnancy by almost 90% after one act of unprotected sex. The sooner treatment begins, the more likely it will be effective.
Some health experts have reservations about the use of emergency contraception. "I'm concerned that women will rely on this method and not take normal precautions," says Kathleen Winfield, a public health nurse in New Jersey who specializes in the prevention of infectious diseases. The convenience of swallowing two pills may indeed be attractive to those who might otherwise use a barrier method of contraception, like a condom, that helps prevent the spread of
and some other sexually transmitted diseases.
However, studies done to evaluate this very issue have repeatedly shown that immediate access to emergency contraception does not alter a woman’s (or adolescent’s) sexual behavior nor contraception choices.
Pills are not the only kind of emergency contraception available. An intrauterine device (IUD) placed in your uterus within seven days of unprotected sex can act as emergency contraception. An IUD is a type of temporary birth control for women. It is inserted into the uterus by a doctor. IUDs can be hormone-releasing or made of copper. Both are shaped like a letter “T” with a tiny string attached.
An IUD does not stop your ovaries from releasing an egg the way emergency contraceptive pills do. Instead, it can prevent an egg from becoming fertilized or from attaching to the wall of the uterus. Emergency IUD insertion can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 99.9% if it is inserted within seven days of unprotected sex.
Women 15 and older can get emergency contraceptive pills at any pharmacy, without a prescription. Women under 15 must have a prescription. You can obtain a prescription through Planned Parenthood and most healthcare providers. To identify a clinic or pharmacy that carries emergency contraception, call your physician or the Emergency Contraception Hotline at 1-888-NOT-2-LATE.
Answers to frequently asked questions about types of emergency contraception. The Emergency Contraception Website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated June 12, 2013. Accessed July 17, 2013.
Emergency contraception. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated May 3, 2013. Accessed July 17, 2013.
Emergency contraception. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated January 2011. Accessed July 17, 2013.
Emergency contraception. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed July 17, 2013.
Lo SS, Ho PC. Changes in contraceptive choice after emergency contraception.
Int J Gynaecol Obstet
Morning-after pill (emergency contraception). Planned Parenthood website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Accessed July 17, 2013.
Piaggio G, von Hertzen H, Grimes DA, Van Look PFA. For: Task Force on Postovulatory Methods of Fertility Regulation. Timing of emergency contraception with levonorgestrel or the Yuzpe regimen.
Task Force on Postovulatory Methods of Fertility Regulation. Randomised controlled trial of levonorgestrel versus the Yuzpe regimen of combined oral contraceptives for emergency contraception.
Unintended pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: ...(Click grey area to select URL) Updated February 12, 2013. Accessed July 17, 2013.
5/6/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance ...(Click grey area to select URL) : US Food and Drug Administration. FDA approves Plan B One-Step emergency contraceptive without a prescription for women 15 years of age and older. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm350230.htm. Updated April 30, 2013. Accessed July 17, 2013.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to
be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or
with questions regarding a medical condition. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding
the content please email us at email@example.com.
Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.