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Emergency Contraception
Frequently Asked Questions

What is emergency contraception (EC)?

Emergency contraception (EC) is just that - contraception used in the case of an emergency. EC might be needed for a variety of reasons. Maybe a couple got caught up in the moment and did not use any birth control. Maybe the condom broke or a woman forgot to take her birth control pills. Or, in the worst scenario, someone may have been sexually assaulted or raped. In any of these cases, EC can be used to prevent pregnancy after an act of unprotected intercourse has occurred.

The most commonly used form of EC is emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs). ECPs are pills that contain hormones much like those found in regular birth control pills but at a much higher strength. When someone takes ECPs no later than 72-120 hours after sex, the risk of pregnancy is significantly reduced for that sex act. The sooner the pills are taken, the more effective they are. Plan B and Next Choice are the most common brand names of ECPs.

ECPs do not cause an abortion, and they should not harm the fetus if a woman becomes pregnant. When taken properly, ECPs work to disrupt the body's mechanisms that would normally allow a woman to get pregnant. This occurs before a pregnancy has occurred, which is when a fertilized egg implants into the wall of the uterus (womb).

Another option for EC is the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD) within 5 – 8 days after intercourse. Once the IUD is in place, it can be used for years as a regular birth control method. This method is only recommended for someone who is looking for a long-term birth control method in addition to emergency contraception.

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