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Emergency Contraception

Commonly referred to as “Plan B” or the “Morning after pill”, emergency contraception (EC) is a form of hormonal birth control that is intended for emergency use – for those times when a birth control method failed or none was used. EC is available over the counter at local pharmacies for women 18 years of age or older and by prescription for women under the age of 18.

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How Does EC Work?

EC works much the same way that regular daily birth control pills work. It helps to prevent pregnancy by:

Delaying or preventing the release of an egg from the ovary

Preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg

Or by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterine wall and causing a pregnancy (EC will not terminate a pregnancy once the implantation process has begun)

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When Should EC Be Used?

EC is called “Emergency contraception” or “Plan B” for a reason. It should only be used in emergency type situations and it should NOT be “Plan A!”

Consider using EC if you had sex and:

No birth control was used

The condom broke or slipped

You just missed two or more birth control pills in 1 pack

You were forced to have sex and you are not on a hormonal birth control method or using the IUD

EC is only effective (89%) up to 120 hours (5 days) of having unprotected sex and is less effective the longer you wait. If you have had unprotected sex, take EC as soon as you can within the first 72 hours. It’s a good idea to buy EC ahead of time to be prepared for any emergency situations so it can be taken immediately without having to make a trip to the pharmacy.

E.C. should not be your primary form of birth control for several reasons. First of all it is only 89% effective, and it is fairly expensive. One dose of EC typically costs more than a month’s supply of regular birth control pills. Also, because EC contains larger level of hormone, the side effects may be more severe.

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What Side Effects May Be Associated With EC

Side effects associated with EC are similar to the side effects associated with regular daily birth control pills, though temporary they may be more severe. Side effects include nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, and menstrual changes.

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How Much Does EC Cost And Where Can I Get It?

If you are 18 years or older you can get EC at most pharmacies without a prescription. Keep in mind not all pharmacies carry EC so it’s important to call ahead and ask. If you are younger than 18 you will need a prescription. The cost for EC will vary depending on the pharmacy but can range from $30-$60. EC is available for less at some clinics including the local Health Dept. where cost is based on a sliding scale.

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Does EC Cause An Abortion?

This is a question that many people ask. The answer is NO! EC does not cause an abortion, If a pregnancy has already occurred (an egg was fertilized and implanted into the lining of the uterus) EC will NOT terminate the pregnancy. There is still a lot of public confusion and many people believe EC is a medical abortion pill but it is not.

EC can prevent unintended pregnancies but it offers NO PROTECTION against sexually transmitted diseases! If you are at risk for contracting STDs, you will need to take the necessary precautions to avoid them as well as pregnancy. To learn more about STDs and how to prevent them click HERE.

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Are There Any Side Effects Associated With This Method?

Emergency Contraception is a more concentrated dose of one of the hormones contained in regular birth control pills and associated side effects are often similar to those experienced on the Birth Control Pill.

Many women experience no side effects after using Emergency Contraception. However, some women may experience nausea, abdominal pain, fatigue, headache, and spotting. Some women may experience a delay in their next period if spotting occurs.

If you experience severe abdominal pain, chest pain and shortness of breath, severe headache, blurred vision, or swelling or severe pain in one leg, seek medical care.

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Severe Headache: this headache would be very painful and may be located on both sides of the head or only on one side. It may be throbbing or stabbing. Vision changes, nausea or vomiting may occur. Usually not relieved with aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), or acetaminophen (Tylenol). May be a symptom of a medical emergency.
Severe Abdominal Pain: this pain, located in the lower abdomen, is stronger than normal menstrual pain and usually not relieved with ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). May be a symptom of a medical emergency. On a pain scale of 0-10, with 10 being the worst pain, a person would rate severe pain in the 8-10 category.
Spotting: menstrual blood that is very small in amount, ranging from a dime to quarter size. Spotting may occur before or after normal menstrual flow which is normal or may happen between periods which could be abnormal