Contraception

Emergency Contraception

What is EC and how does it work?

Emergency Contraception (EC), sometimes referred to as the morning after pill, is birth control that can be used after unprotected sex in order to prevent pregnancy. EC comes in two forms: pill (ella and other brands like Plan B) and the ParaGard IUD. EC prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation, fertilization, or, possibly, implantation.

The hormones in the pill versions of EC disrupt hormone production in the ovaries. This will delay ovulation if it has not already occurred and will make the uterine lining unsuitable for implantation of an egg if fertilization has occurred.

The ParaGard IUD prevents pregnancy due to the copper material present in the IUD. Sperm does not like copper, and having copper present makes it harder for sperm to swim well enough to reach an egg and fertilize it.

EC will not affect an existing pregnancy and it will not cause an abortion. EC is not the same as RU-486 (Mifepristone), the early option pill that is given to induce a medical abortion after a person is already pregnant.

Why would I want to use EC?

EC can help to prevent pregnancy after sex in circumstances such as these::

  • The condom broke or slipped off

  • You forgot to take birth control pills in your current cycle

  • Your diaphragm or cervical cap slipped out of place

  • Your partner didn't pull out in time or used the withdrawal method

  • You weren't using any birth control

  • You were forced to have unprotected vaginal sex

  • You are unsure or unable to remember if protection was used 

What are the different types of EC and how effective are they in preventing pregnancy?

There are two forms of EC: the EC pill and ParaGard IUD.

The most common for of the EC pill are pills with a hormonal medicine called levonorgestrel. The brand names for this type of pill include: Plan B One Step, Take Action, MyWay, AfterPill, among others. This form of EC can reduce your chance of getting pregnant by 75-89% when taken within 3 days of unprotected sex. These EC packages include 1 pill which should be taken right away. These EC pills can be obtained over-the-counter and a prescription is not required.  It is important to note that if you are over 165 lbs, this form of EC may be less effective and you may want to use ella or the ParaGard IUD instead.

Another form of an emergency contraceptive is a pill with the brand name “ella.” ella is the most effective type of morning-after pill but requires a prescription from a medical provider. ella reduces the chances of getting pregnant by 85% if taken within 5 days of unprotected sex. ella is just as effective when taken on day 5 as it is on day 1. ella is less effective if you are over 195 lbs, and you may want to consider using a ParaGard IUD as EC.

The most effective form of EC is the ParaGard IUD, which is almost 100% effective regardless of body weight when used within 5 days of unprotected sex. The ParaGard IUD is placed in the uterus by a medical provider and can be used for ongoing contraception. Call to make an appointment with your medical provider as soon as you realize you need this form of EC, as it may be hard to get an appointment. For more information about IUDs, click here. 

Will I experience any side effects after taking EC?

  • The pill form of EC is very safe and side effects are not common. It is normal for your next period to be different in terms of start date, duration, and heaviness. Other symptoms may include an upset, stomach, lightheadedness or dizziness, or tender breasts. These symptoms should subside within two days of taking EC.  If you vomit within the first two hours of taking EC, the dose will have to be repeated. If you are particularly prone to nausea, speak with your medical provider and they may give you extra pills and an anti-nausea medication, like Dramamine, along with the EC dose in order to prevent this side effect. Taking EC with food sometimes helps as well.

  • The ParaGard IUD is also a very safe option for EC. Serious problems with IUDs are rare and the ParaGard IUD one of the most widely used types of long-acting reversible contraceptives. Some side effects can include mild to moderate pain when IUD is inserted, cramping following IUD insertion, spotting between periods, and heavier periods. Generally, most of these symptoms subside in 3-6 months or less. Over the counter pain medication can help with cramping. For more information about IUD side effects, click here. 

When will my next period occur?

Taking an EC pill may alter the timing of the your next period. Menstrual bleeding may begin a few days earlier or a few days later than would have been expected. If menstrual bleeding does not begin within 3 weeks after taking EC, contact your medical provider to discuss pregnancy testing or alternative reasons for not beginning a period.

What happens if I use EC more than once?

  • It is not dangerous to take the EC pill repeatedly. However, we don't recommend that you use EC pills as a regular form of birth control because it is not as effective as using other contraceptive methods consistently. If you do not want to become pregnant, you should talk with your medical provider about a regular contraceptive method that would work for you. Brown students can make an appointment at Health Services by calling 401.863-3953.

  • If you are using the ParaGard IUD as EC, it prevents pregnancy for up to 12 years following insertion. Once placed in you uterus by a medical provider, other forms of EC will not be necessary to prevent pregnancy. Brown students can make an appointment at Health Services by calling 401.863-3953. 

Where and how do I get EC?

If you are a Brown student, you can go directly to the Health Services Pharmacy to purchase EC for a cost of $30 (plus tax). (This is a discounted price as compared to drugstores and other locations where the cost will be closer to $50). No ID is required to purchase EC.

EC in the form of the pill "ella" is also available by prescription through Health Services. You can schedule an appointment with a provider by calling 401.863-3953.

Health Services now provides ParaGard IUD insertion. You can schedule an appointment with a provider by calling 401.863-3953. Be sure to mention that you need an expedited appointment for emergency contraception purposes.

If you have Brown's student health insurance (SHIP), you can probably get the cost of your EC covered in full. If you have other insurance, you may be able to get reimbursed. When you get your EC at Health Services, we will give you the information you need to submit to your insurance company for reimbursement.

Resources off-campus:
EC is available at local pharmacies, health care clinics or a hospital emergency department. The closest pharmacy to campus is the CVS on Wayland Square (481 Angell Street, 401.521-4340) and the nearest clinic is Planned Parenthood (111 Point Street, 401.421-9620). You can also check online or in the Providence phone book for phone numbers and addresses of other local pharmacies or health care facilities.

If you are away from the Providence area, or if you want more information about EC:
You can get the name of the EC providers nearest you by calling the emergency contraception hotline: 1-800-NOT-2-LATE or looking them up on the website. You can also call 1-800-230-PLAN to find the Planned Parenthood Health Center nearest you, or look up the nearest clinic on their website. EC is also available at public health centers, private doctors, and hospital emergency rooms. 

Can I get EC in advance?

Yes! If you are going on an extended trip or you are worried about your contraceptive method failing and you would like to have EC on hand just in case, you can purchase EC in advance. Because it is available without a prescription, you can get EC at any time.

Related Links

For more information about EC, you can visit:

Planned Parenthood

 

PHONE NUMBERS
  • 401.863-2794
    Health Promotion
  • 401.863-3953
    Health Services
  • 401.863-6000
    Sexual Assault Response Line
  • 401.863-4111
    EMS
  • 401.863-3476
    Counseling & Psychological Services
  • 401.863-4111
    DPS