Center for Health Training
1809 Seventh Avenue, Suite 400
Seattle, WA 98101-1341
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How emergency contraceptive pills work:
Emergency contraceptive (EC) pills are used AFTER
sexual intercourse. EC (also called the “morning after
pill”) reduces the risk of pregnancy when taken as soon
as possible or within 5 days after sexual intercourse. Ef-
fectiveness of EC goes down gradually and generally
won’t work if you wait more than 120 hours (5 days).
The way EC works depends on when a woman takes it during
her “monthly” menstrual cycle. Early in her cycle, EC can
stop her body from releasing an egg (ovulation), so there
is no egg present to be fertilized. EC may be effective after
ovulation, but currently there is no evidence that shows that
it works after ovulation or fertilization has occurred.
Emergency contraception may prevent pregnancy, but it will
NOT stop an already-established pregnancy or harm a devel-
oping fetus. EC does NOT cause abortion.
How to use emergency contraceptive pills:
Plan B® (progestin-only) is two pills and can be taken in one
dose or in two doses 12 hours apart. Combination EC (estro-
gen and progestin) is also available. These pills must be taken
as directed by a health provider or pharmacist, as soon as
possible (within 5 days) after unprotected sex.
Where can you get EC?
A prescription is not required for EC if you are a woman or
man age 18 or older. You can get EC at a pharmacy, drug
store or a family planning clinic. In some states, you can re-
ceive EC directly from a pharmacist. If you are younger than
18, or if you need a prescription for insurance reimburse-
ment, you can contact a health care provider. For a local EC
provider, call the emergency contraception national toll-free
hotline (1-888-NOT-2-LATE) or visit the website www.not-
You can buy Plan B® in advance to have on hand it you need