What is Emergency Contraception?
- Emergency contraception (birth control after sexual intercourse) is the use of a drug or device to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sexual intercourse.
- Emergency contraception can be used when a condom breaks, if a diaphragm or cervical cap slips out of place during intercourse, after a sexual assault, or any time unprotected intercourse occurs.
- Emergency contraceptive pills are sometimes called the “morning-after pill,” but they are usually effective if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sexual intercourse.
- Emergency contraceptives available in the United States include emergency contraceptive pills, which contain the same hormones found in birth control pills, and the Copper T380 intrauterine device (IUD).
- The Preven kit, the Plan B kit and Ella are pills marketed as emergency contraceptive pills.
- Emergency contraceptive measures can be taken within the first 72 hours after unprotected sexual intercourse to reduce the possibility of pregnancy.
- A woman is most likely to become pregnant if sexual intercourse occurs in the few days before or after ovulation (release of an egg from the ovary).
- Emergency contraceptives should not be used as a contraceptive method in women who are sexually active or planning to become sexually active. They are not as effective as any ongoing contraceptive method.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/28/2016
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
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