Emergency Contraception 101 (because mishaps happen)

UPDATE: Plan B One-Step emergency contraception is now available over the counter without a prescription or age restrictions. Here’s what we know about it so far!

You could be drunk and forgetful. You could be crazy in love, horny as hell, and out of birth control. You could be perfectly responsible, but the condom breaks. There are a million things that could lead to a “whoops moment” during sex, followed by the stressful realization that you might get pregnant. Should that ever happen to you, here’s what you need to know about emergency contraception.

What it is
Emergency contraception (EC) can stop a pregnancy before it starts. There are 4 types and depending on which kind you choose, you have up to 5 days (or 120 hours) to use it after unprotected sex. And please hear this: It is absolutely not the same as the abortion pill.

  • ella is a one-pill method and it’s the newest EC on the market. You need a prescription for it and you have 5 full days after unprotected sex to use it.
  • Plan B/Next Choice are also pills and they’re available over the counter without a prescription. These also work up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but the effectiveness decreases each day.
  • The Yuzpe Method is when you use regular birth control bills as EC by following very specific guidelines. It works up to 3 days.
  • The Paragard IUD—a copper-T IUD—can also be used as EC. In fact, it’s the most effective EC out there and you can keep on using it as super-reliable birth control after you get through this scare. You’ll need to have it inserted within 5 days of your mishap.

Where to get it
Start here to find EC in your neighborhood. Some EC needs to be prescribed or administered by a doc and some is available over the counter, so we list health centers and pharmacies that can help you. We also list where you can order EC online, but keep in mind you’ll need to have it overnighted because you have a very small amount of time for it to work. Prices vary, but here’s what you can expect to pay for it.

How to use it
Each type of EC is different. Here are the basic details on how to use them. Of course, you’ll need to follow the instructions you get from your doctor, pharmacist, or on the EC itself. Keep in mind that EC can make some women a little nauseous. (Ginger ale and crackers have been known to help with that.) The most important thing to remember is that timing is critical. You have to take action and get EC as soon as possible after an accident. Within 24-hours and up to 3 days is ideal.

How to avoid needing EC in the first place
To avoid this kind of stress altogether, a lot of women go on LARCs. That stands for long acting reversible contraception and LARC methods include the IUD, the shot, the ring, the patch, and the implant. They’re the most reliable, most recommended “get-it-and-forget-it” types of birth control, and they are excellent when it comes to preventing unplanned pregnancies.

You can handle anything,

P.S. If you ever have a question about EC, Bedsider can help you.

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