What is EC?

Emergency contraception (sometimes called EC or “the morning-after pill”) works after sex to stop a pregnancy before it starts.

You have up to 5 days (or 120 hours) to use EC after unprotected sex.

EC is not the same thing as the abortion pill; if you’re already pregnant, EC will not work.

There are several brands of EC available in the US:

Plan B One-Step, Take Action, Next Choice One Dose and My Way are one pill (made of levonorgestrel) that you take as soon as possible after sex.

Levonorgestrel Tablets are two pills that you can take together as soon as possible after sex.

ella is a different kind of pill (called ulipristal acetate). It’s just one pill that you take within 5 days of sex. ella is more effective than the other type of pill (Plan B One-Step, Take Action, etc.), especially on the 4th or 5th day after sex.

How Do I Get EC?

Levonorgestrel EC, like Plan B One-Step, Take Action, Next Choice One Dose or My Way, is now available without age restrictions. That means anyone, male or female, can buy these products off the shelf without having to show ID. Sometimes, these products still kept behind the pharmacy counter; if you don’t see EC in the family planning aisle, be sure to ask at the pharmacy. If someone refuses to sell it to you or asks you for ID, let us know about it.

If you want to use ella, you need a prescription no matter how old you are.

This EC Locator will help you find clinics and pharmacies with EC in your neighborhood.

Remember that timing is critical. Figure out where you can get EC as soon as possible after unprotected sex – within 24 hours and up to 3 days is ideal.

How Much Does EC cost?

EC can be expensive – anywhere from $35 to $60 (or more) if you have to pay for it yourself at a pharmacy. Try your local Planned Parenthood or teen clinic to see if they can provide EC to you at a reduced cost (or even for free) or check here for other suggestions for finding lower-cost pills.

Do My Parents Have to Know?

No – there is no law requiring your parents be notified before you get birth control, especially now that it’s available over the counter.

How Do I Use EC?

If you use a kind of EC that’s just one pill (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose or ella), you take the pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex. If you use a brand that has two pills (like Levonorgestrel Tablets), take both pills together as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that EC can have some minor side effects like nausea, breast tenderness, stomach pain, headache, dizziness, temporarily irregular menstrual periods, or fatigue.

EC will not protect you against sexually transmitted infections so be sure to use condoms if you are concerned about STDs.

If you do not get your next period after taking EC, be sure to see your doctor.

Can I Use EC as My Regular Method of Birth Control?

EC is perfectly safe, but it isn’t a birth control method you should rely on all the time—there are much more effective methods out there. Method Match is a great online tool for picking the best method for you.