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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About…

How to Get Emergency Contraception

Should I get emergency contraceptive pills to keep in my medicine cabinet, just in case?

Yes, if you are sexually active (or plan to be), it’s a terrific idea to get emergency contraceptive pills ("morning after pills") before you need them, so that you have them on hand.

EC should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. Sperm can live in the body for 5 days after unprotected sex. Although research shows that EC can be effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex, what’s important for an individual woman is where you are in your menstrual cycle. Both kinds of EC work before ovulation, but don’t appear to work after; and ella works closer to the time of ovulation than progestin-only EC (like Plan B One-Step, Take Action, Next Choice One Dose or My Way). If you have unprotected sex and think that you may be close to ovulation (or have no idea where you are in your cycle), ella may be the best choice. It may take time to get a prescription and fill it, or find a pharmacy that carries EC, so call your doctor or pharmacy as soon as possible after unprotected sex.


You only have a short time to use emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. But if you already have emergency contraceptive pills in your medicine cabinet, you can use them right away – without having to get to your health care provider and/or find a pharmacy. (And the pills don’t expire for several years, so you can stay prepared for a long time).

For all of these reasons, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – the leading professional association of doctors who specialize in women’s health – recommends providing emergency contraceptive pills in advance. Even so, you might find you need to take the initiative because few health care providers think to talk to their patients about emergency contraception.

Click here for more information about how to get emergency contraceptive pills.

For a thorough and up-to-date academic review of the medical and social science literature, including efforts to improve women’s access to emergency contraception, click here .


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