Emergency Contraception isn’t a method you should rely on all the time—there are much more effective methods out there. But if you have unprotected sex, it’s the quickest and easiest “after-the-fact” option out there. Here are the different types you can choose from.
This is the most effective EC there is. If you get the ParaGard IUD inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex, it can lower the chance of pregnancy by 99.9%. You’ll need to make an appointment with a health care provider to have this procedure.
You need a prescription to pick up ella at a local pharmacy. In some states, you can order it from an online pharmacy without getting a prescription first (they handle that for you on their website). There’s no age limit to access ella. Take the one-pill formula within 5 days after unprotected sex.
Levonorgestrel-based EC pills are available off the shelf at pharmacies and grocery stores to anyone with no age restrictions. That means you should be able to buy Plan B One-Step or generic options like Next Choice One Dose, Next Choice, My Way, and Levonorgestrel without having a prescription or showing your ID. All levonorgestrel-based EC pills work like birth control pills, but at a much higher dose and taken temporarily. Best used as soon as possible, though they can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex.
Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose, and My Way consist of just one pill that's to be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex. (The original Plan B consisted of two pills and is no longer being sold.)
Next Choice and Levonorgestrel are both two-pill formulas. The instructions say to take one pill right away and the second 12 hours later, but research shows you can also take both pills at the same time.
The Yuzpe Regimen
Some everyday birth control pills can be used as EC. If you go that route, which is called the Yuzpe regimen, you’ve got to take the pills in two doses, 12 hours apart. And it only works with certain brands. Here’s an article to help you understand how to use the Yuzpe regimen.
Remember: Use EC as soon as possible after you’ve had unprotected sex. The sooner you take it, the better—within 24-hours to three days is ideal. But EC will still reduce your risk of pregnancy for up to 5 days. [The instructions for Plan B and Next Choice say to take it within 72 hours after sex, but studies show that Plan B One-Step, Next Choice, and Levonorgestrel can be taken up to 5 days after sex.]