Emergency birth control is just as it sounds. It’s used to try to prevent pregnancies in emergencies, like after you’ve had unprotected sex unexpectedly.


There are many cases where this could happen. The condom could have broken or leaked, you realized you missed taking a birth control pill or were using your birth control method incorrectly, you forgot to use protection or were too swept up in the moment, your judgment was thrown off by the use of alcohol, drugs, or other substances, or in worst case scenario, you were sexually assaulted or raped.


If any of these happen, know that you are not alone. It can happen to anyone, and it was not your fault. You always have somebody you can talk to, even if you feel like there is no one. I’ll be writing a future post specifically about sexual assault. Planned Parenthood has a great resource, and you can call the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) online support line at anytime 24/7 by phone or online chat.


In terms of preventing pregnancy after an unprotected sexual encounter, you have up to 120 hours (5 days) after the unprotected sex to do something about it to try to decrease your chance of getting pregnant. Your options are to take a special kind of pill, sometimes called “Plan B,” or “The Morning After Pill,” or to have a copper IUD inserted by your doctor.


For the pill, you can go to any pharmacy and buy it over the counter if you are at least 17 years old. If you are younger than 17, you will need a doctor’s prescription, so you will need to make an urgent appointment. These laws vary by country.

birth control plan b emergency contraception
birth control emergency contraception

There are different types of pills (some types only work up to 72 hours after unprotected sex), so it’s very important read the label and take it exactly as instructed. One of the types requires 2 doses, spaced 12 hours apart. They can cause nausea, so if you throw up, you’re at risk of them not working because they were not absorbed enough. The pills contain either levonorgestrel (brand names “Plan B,” “The Morning After Pill”), or ullipristal (EllaOne).

birth control ella ullipristal emergency contraception

For the copper IUD, you will need to make an urgent doctor’s appointment, but after it is placed, you will then be protected from pregnancy in the future for up to 12 years! The copper IUD is unique in that it’s the ONLY option that counts as both regular birth control and emergency contraception! It’s a very powerful regular birth control option (>99% effective) that also works in cases of emergencies.

copper iud

Although there haven’t been studies of the emergency contraception pills being less effective the more you’ve used them, it still is NOT a good idea to use them regularly instead of real birth control. The long term effects of the emergency pills on your body have not been studied enough, and also using them is way more expensive, since each emergency pill is $40-50, whereas most birth control options are covered by insurance or can be gotten for cheap if you don’t have insurance. Try sites such as www.nurx.com, which even deliver them to your door!


The emergency pills are for DAMAGE control ONLY. They do not replace the need for a reliable plan for PROTECTION in the first place. You have so many birth control options to choose from, you should never have to be in a situation where you can only rely on emergency contraception pills!


That’s it for Emergency Contraception. As always, feel free to message me with any questions or concerns!


One response

  1. Any thought about including how each method works? Particularly what makes these different than the typical OCPs, and why the copper IUD is effective emergency connection while the hormonal IUDV is not?

    I liked the bit about where research is lacking on this topic. After there populations that use emergency contraception as their primary means of birth control?

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Who am I?
Hi! I'm Dr. Toni, a carTOONIst. I empower, educate and advocate for women and minorities through my art and coaching, while traveling nomadically. I help others also follow our hearts and live true to themselves, no matter what others say!
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