Emergency contraception is sometimes known as the “morning after pill”. It is a concentrated dose of the same hormone found in regular birth control. It can safely and effectively prevent pregnancy if taken within 5 days after sex. However, it is not an abortion pill. Emergency contraception will not harm an existing pregnancy and will not work if you are already pregnant.

Not sure about when to use EC? Here are some clues:

  • Within 5 days after having unprotected sex, BUT THE SOONER THE BETTER!
  • If you didn’t use any birth control.
  • If the condom broke.
  • If you missed 2 or more birth control pills or you started your pack late.
  • If your diaphram slipped.
  • If you missed your birth control shot.
  • If you were forced to have sex.

There are two types of emergency contraception, the first one being the emergency contraception pill, and the other being an emergency insertion of an IUD.

The pill version comes as either a combination pill (estrogen and progestin) or as a progestin-only pill. Information on how to use the pills will be written on the packet, and it is important that you follow the directions in order to get the best protection.

An emergency IUD insertion is performed by  a doctor or other certified clinicians. It can be left in place for up to 12 years, or it can be removed after your next menstrual period, when it is certain that you are not pregnant. IUDs are not recommended for women at risk for sexually transmitted infections at the time of insertion, including women who have been raped.

Where to get EC?

You can go to a pharmacy, family planning clinic, or county health department. Over the counter at a pharmacy, it will cost approximately $40-$50 and it requires an ID for proof of age. On www.wvfree.org, you can find a list of pharmacies that carry emergency birth control pills. At a family planning clinic or health department, you can get it at a lower cost, or maybe even for free. But if you are under age 17, you will need a prescription from your doctor, family planning clinic, school health center, health department clinic or urgent care center in order to get it.

Other important information about emergency birth control pills?

  • It is a back-up to your regular method of birth control. However, it should not be a substitute for regular contraceptive use.
  • It DOES NOT protect against sexually transmitted infectioons (STIs), including HIV.
  • It won’t harm an existing pregnancy.
  • Also, emergency contraception may not prevent ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that develops outside the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy requires medical treatment, and if left untreated may lead to fatal complications.
  • Even if you’ve used emergency birth control before, get a pregnancy test if your period is over a week late.

(Information taken from Planned Parenthood, www.plannedparenthood.org, and West Virginia Free,www.wvfree.org)