What is emergency contraception? Emergency contraception is a way to try to prevent pregnancy if you recently had sex. "Contraception" is another word for birth control.
You might use emergency contraception if:
Emergency contraception lowers the risk of pregnancy. It works by blocking the release of an egg from the ovary. It does not end a pregnancy that has already started.
Levonorgestrel 1.5mg is one type of emergency contraception. It is one dose and is available without a prescription. It is sold under names such as Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, take action, Aftera, My Choice, etc. It is FDA approved for use for up to 72 hours (3 days) following intercourse. If it has been longer than 3 days, you may need a prescription emergency contraceptive pill. The sooner you take it the more effective it will be. About 7 out of every 8 people who would have gotten pregnant will not become pregnant after taking this medication as directed. If taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, levonorgestrel can reduce your risk of pregnancy by around 89%. If taken within 24 hours, it is around 97% effective.
There is another emergency contraceptive pill called ulipristal (brand name ella). This is available by prescription only from a provider, including those at UB Student Health Services. It is approved for up to 5 days (120 hours) following unprotected intercourse and reduces the risk of pregnancy to 1 to 2 percent. It may also be more effective than Levonorgestrel if you weigh more than 165 pounds.
Copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) can also be used as emergency contraception if inserted up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. The Copper IUD (Paragard) is inserted into the uterus during a minor office procedure and releases copper into the uterus which alters the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg and for an egg to implant. Once inserted, copper IUDs can protect against pregnancy for up to 10 years. Interested students can contact UB Student Health Services for a referral or directly contact a community-based provider for IUD placement.
Levonorgestrel is safe and generally well tolerated. Side effects reported include nausea with or without vomiting, lower abdominal cramps, fatigue, dizziness, breast tenderness, and headache.
Emergency contraception pills can make some people vomit. If you vomit within 2 hours of taking emergency contraception, you should repeat the dose. Call your medical provider or UB Student Health Services right away if you have any questions about this. If you become nauseous easily, you should take the pill with food. You can also take a non-prescription anti-nausea medication such as meclizine (sold under brand names Bonine or Dramamine) about 30 minutes prior to taking the emergency contraception pill.
You should get your period within a week of when you would normally expect it. If your period is delayed beyond 1 week, you should have a pregnancy test (these are performed at UB Student Health Services for free, or you can purchase an over-the-counter test at any pharmacy). If you are bleeding more than a normal period or have pain in your lower abdomen, you should contact your medical provider or UB Student Health Services right away.
If you have sex again after you take emergency contraception pills, you can still get pregnant. Use a condom or another type of birth control. If you normally use birth control pills, a patch, or a vaginal ring, but you missed some doses, you should resume your regular birth control right away - or start one if you don’t already have one - although you will need to use a backup form of birth control (such as a condom) for at least seven days.
If you have unprotected sex again, you can take emergency contraception again. Emergency contraception can be used multiple times per cycle but should not be used as a regular form of birth control because it is not as effective.