Emergency contraception (EC) contains hormones found in birth control pills. EC can help prevent pregnancy after unprotected intercourse, but it should not be used as a substitute for regular birth control methods. In addition, emergency contraception cannot protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Emergency contraception can be used after condoms break, in cases of sexual assault, or any time unprotected sexual intercourse occurs.
EC is now available over the counter!
Plan B (a brand of emergency contraception) recently obtained FDA approval for over the counter use for women above the age of 17. In keeping with current FDA guidelines, the Student Health Center will be offering Plan B over the counter. Plan B will be available for all students who are 17 years of age or older. If you need Plan B, please come to the front desk of the Student Health Center with your student ID and proof of age. The cost for the medication is $35.00 and no physician visit is required. If you are under 17, a prescription for Plan B is required to obtain.
Is EC Right For You?
When sex occurs without using any birth control, the risk of becoming pregnant depends on where you are in your menstrual cycle. During your most fertile days, midway between two menstrual periods, the risk could be as high as 30%. With EC, your chance of becoming pregnant is reduced by 75-89%* if you take it within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. ECs are NOT 100% effective. Women who are pregnant should not take EC. There is a risk that ECs might harm a fetus if you do get pregnant. So far, babies born to women who used ECs have not had a higher rate of birth defects.
When to take EC:
EC is effective within 120 hours of having unprotected sex, not just the morning after. However, they are more effective the sooner you take them after unprotected sex. That means if you had unprotected sex on Friday night, you could use ECs up until Wednesday night, but starting them sooner would be best.
EC is not 100% effective, so you could still get pregnant while using them. If you become pregnant and would not consider terminating the pregnancy, you need to think about the risks and benefits of EC. The benefit, of course, is you could prevent a pregnancy. The risk is that the drugs in EC might harm the fetus if you do get pregnant. However, so far, babies born to women who used EC have not had a higher rate of birth defects. If you know you absolutely do not want to be pregnant and you would consider terminating the pregnancy, EC would be a good option for you.
The most effective type of Emergency Contraceptive Pill is called Plan B. This treatment involves taking a specific dose of hormone pills within 120 hours after sex, which may be given all at once, or in divided doses 12 hours apart (as described in the FDA-approved package directions). Plan B works by interfering with fertilization or changing the lining of the uterus and making it unlikely for a fertilized egg to implant. EC does not cause abortion. Abortion is defined as the termination of pregnancy. In clinical terms, a woman is pregnant only after the fertilized egg has implanted in the uterine lining.
Are there side effects?
EC can cause nausea and/or vomiting. Less common temporary side effects of EC are headache, cramping, breast tenderness, irregular bleeding, dizziness, and fluid retention. Most women can safely use ECs. Women who have abdominal pain, chest or leg pain, severe headache or vision problems should contact the Student Health Center or the Emergency Room immediately.
The following are contraindications to the use of progestin only (Plan B) ECs:
- Known or suspected pregnancy
- Hypersensitivity to the drug
- Known allergies to the drug
- Undiagnosed abnormal genital bleeding
Emergency Contraceptive is not intended for use as an individual’s only means of birth control. As soon as you possibly can, begin using a method of birth control you will be able to use every time you have sex. We suggest you schedule a follow-up annual GYN exam with us so we can explore this issue with you. If you want to resume use of birth control pills after taking EC, consult your health care provider.
Since you have had unprotected sex, we strongly recommend that you get screened for sexually transmitted infections (this screening can be done during your annual GYN exam). You can help to protect yourself against AIDS and other STIs, as well as against pregnancy, by using condoms every time you have sex.
If you are over age 17, please come to the front desk of the Student Health Center with your student ID and proof of age. The cost for the medication is $35.00 and no physician visit is required.
Still Have Questions?
- Call the Student Health Center: (757) 221-4386
- Visit the official website for Plan B
- Hear what the FDA has to say about Plan B
*Information from Planned Parenthood