What You Need To Know About Emergency Contraception

Accidents happen to the best of us. Whether it be a condom breaking, missing your regular birth control or not using any method of birth control altogether, you just had unprotected sex and are at risk of getting pregnant. What do you do?

Fortunately, emergency contraception has been made for women to take in situations like these. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood allow women to receive the information and support they need to live their best lives, which includes access to emergency contraception.

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Regardless if you are sexually active, it is important to know the options that you have. If you would like to learn more about the different types of emergency contraception, please click the Planned Parenthood links I have included throughout the article.

There are two types of emergency contraceptives that you can get:

  1. Morning-After Pills [Plan B and Ella]

  2. Copper IUD

Plan B

If you take Plan B within 3 days of unprotected sex, it can lower your chances of getting pregnant by 75-89%. However, as time passes, the effectiveness of the pill decreases. If you are going to take Plan B after unprotected sex, take it as quickly as possible.

You can purchase Plan B at a drugstore without a prescription.

Where to Purchase/Price

Price: $40 - $50 [prices may differ]

Forms of Plan B are sold at many drugstores. Not only are there no age requirements but you also do not need to show any form of identification to purchase Plan B.

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The price depends on the brand that you choose. The brand Plan B One Step cost between $40-$50 whereas other brands cost between $15 - $45. The price you pay or brand you use for the morning-after pill does not change its effectiveness; each pill will work the same.

Side Effects

Plan B is incredibly safe and side effects are not very common. It is normal if your next period may be different than your regular cycle. You may have some side effects such as an upset stomach and tender breasts after taking the pill, but only for a brief period of time. If you vomit within two hours after taking Plan B, the pill will not work and you must take it again.


Ella is the most effective morning-after pill. It works up to 5 days post sex and unlike other morning-after pills, it does not get less effective as time passes. However, you do need a prescription to get Ella.

For those who are already on hormonal birth control methods such as the pill or shot, ella is not the best form of emergency contraception because it makes both methods less effective.

Where to Purchase/Price

Price: $50 drugstore, $67 online.

Some health insurances do cover morning-after pills. If you would like to take ella and are unsure if your insurance covers it, you can go to a Planned Parenthood center and a staff member can help you. However, the easiest way to purchase ella is through the Internet.

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Side Effects

Similar to Plan B, it is totally normal if your period is different than usual. It may arrive earlier/later than expected and your flow may be different than usual. In rare cases, you may get an upset stomach. If this occurs and you vomit up to two hours after taking ella, the pill did not work and you must take it again.

Copper IUD

The copper IUD, also known as the ParaGard IUD, is the most effective emergency contraceptive. If inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex, it can lower your chance of pregnancy by 99.9%. You can leave the copper IUD in for up to 12 years, working as both an emergency contraceptive and a method of birth control.

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A doctor or nurse needs to insert the IUD. Since it may be more difficult to quickly schedule an appointment for an IUD insertion, make the appointment as soon as you can. If you cannot get an appointment in time, take a different method of emergency contraception instead.

Where to Purchase/Price

Price: $0 - $1,000

The price you will pay for a Paragard IUD will often depend on your health insurance. Fortunately, IUDs are free or have a low cost on many insurance plans.

If you do not have health insurance, that’s okay. If you go to Planned Parenthood, staff may charge less depending on your financial income. If you are considering getting an IUD and don’t have health insurance, it would be best to talk to your local Planned Parenthood center to figure out the best option for you.

Side Effects

Some women do get side effects after having a copper IUD inserted. The side effects usually disappear when your body gets used to the IUD, approximately 3-6 months post insertion.

  • mild to moderate pain when the IUD is inserted

  • cramping or backaches for a few days after you get the IUD put in

  • spotting between periods

  • heavier periods and worse menstrual cramps

[as seen on Planned Parenthood’s official website]

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If you are a New York state resident and make a certain annual income, Planned Parenthood may be able to help you apply to the Medicaid Family Planning Benefit Program. The completely confidential program run by Planned Parenthood covers emergency contraception, among many other services. If you would like to find out more and possibly apply to the program, click here.

Although the best option is to visit your local PP center, you can also take this quiz to find out which method of emergency contraceptive is right for you.

If you think you may need emergency contraception and are unsure of which method to use, click here for the information on the closest Planned Parenthood location from Hofstra University.