Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception (the morning after pill)

Afraid? Worried? Uncertain about last night?

If you have unprotected sex, there is immediate action you can take to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. You can use emergency contraception if you had unprotected sex, if the condom broke, or if you forgot to take your birth control pill.

Options for emergency contraception

You have several choices. Read on for a brief summary of each.

Plan B One Step (and other generics)

  • It’s available over the counter, so you don’t need a prescription.
  • It is most effective if used within 72 hours (three days) of unprotected intercourse, although the sooner the better. It can be used up to five days after unprotected intercourse.
  • You take a single tablet containing the artificial progesterone levonorgestrel.
  • The FDA recently stated there is no conclusive evidence that overweight or obese women have a higher failure rate, so there are no restrictions based on weight.
  • It works by delaying ovulation and can reduce the chance of pregnancy by up to 88 percent if used within 72 hours or 95 percent if used within 24 hours.
  • You can restart your birth control pills the next day if you took emergency contraception because you missed a pill.


  • It requires a prescription.
  • You take a single tablet containing the anti-progesterone ulipristal acetate within five days of unprotected intercourse (but the sooner the better)
  • It may be more effective than levonorgestrel, especially close to ovulation, and if taken more than five days after sex without a condom.
  • Some experts think it is more effective for overweight or obese women.
  • You need to wait 5 to 7 days before restarting a birth control pill (use condoms or abstain until then).
  • It works by delaying ovulation and possibly preventing implantation of a fertilized egg; can reduce chance of pregnancy by up to 88 percent.

Birth control pill regimens

  • Most birth control pills containing an estrogen can be taken in doses that work as an emergency contraceptive.
  • Side effects like nausea or vomiting are more common.
  • This method is slightly less effective than options such as Plan B One Step or ella.

Paragard IUD

  • It needs to be inserted within five days of unprotected intercourse.
  • It provides highly effective, long-lasting contraception.
  • The logistics of arranging an IUD insertion in so short a time frame can be difficult.
  • Can reduce the chance of pregnancy by 95 to 99 percent.

If you use Plan B, ella, or a birth control pill regimen

  • Your next period may come at a different time, often earlier than expected. If your period is more than one week late, you should run a pregnancy test.
  • If you have severe abdominal pain, you may have a tubal pregnancy—seek medical care immediately.
  • Use an effective form of birth control, such as condoms, until your next period. Emergency contraception is NOT designed to be used multiple times in the same menstrual cycle.
  • Emergency contraception isn’t as effective at preventing pregnancy as contraceptive options (pills, ring, patch, etc.) that you use regularly.
  • Consult with your health care provider about the many options for effective contraception you can choose from, or read more about other options on our website.

Call the Health Center at 812-855-4011 for details or to ask questions.

Updated 10/2019