Emergency Contraception: Morning After Pill

The morning after pill

What is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency Contraception is often referred to as “The Morning After Pill,” but it actually is a dosage of a few pills combined. Emergency contraception is high doses of certain types of the birth control pill, made up of estrogen and progestin or progestin only. Whether it is Preven or Plan B , emergency contraception is provided as a prescription to anyone under the age of 18. This form of birth control is often used in the event of unprotected sexual intercourse, in the cases of sexual assault and rape or in the event that another type of birth control has failed.

How Does Emergency Contraception Work?

Emergency contraception works through high doses of the synthetic hormones of estrogen and progestin, or progestin only, which help regulate ovulation and fertility similar to the way the natural hormones works.

Emergency contraception may change the body in one or more of three ways; it will vary as to which one is preventing pregnancy at any given time:

  • First, it prevents or reduces the probability of an egg being released from the ovaries.
  • Second, it thickens the cervical mucus, decreasing the chance of the sperm reaching and fertilizing the egg.
  • Third, it changes the lining of the uterus, decreasing the probability of implantation. Ethical Consideration.

How Do You Use Emergency Contraception?

The first dose of pills is taken as soon as possible, followed by another dose 12 hours later. The manufacturers of both Preven and Plan B encourage you to take the emergency contraception within 24 hours for maximum effectiveness.

How Effective is Emergency Contraception?

Emergency contraception decreases the possibility of pregnancy by 75% -89% depending on the type of medication taken. If 100 women have one act of sexual intercourse during their most fertile time, approximately 25 will become pregnant. Depending on the emergency contraception used, 3 to 6 will become pregnant. This method is most effective the earlier it is taken.

Emergency contraception is not as effective as other uses of contraception and should not be used as replacement of other methods.

What are the Side Effects or Health Risks of Emergency Contraception?

Emergency Contraception has side effects similar to those experienced by users of oral or other hormonal types of contraception which include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Irregular period
  • Breast Tenderness
  • Abdominal Pain

Emergency contraception may affect your next menstrual cycle by making it earlier or later, or causing blood flow to be different than normal. Emergency contraception is not recommended for women who are already pregnant. You should take a pregnancy test if you are experiencing any pregnancy symptoms. Currently, there are no studies that show that any harm is done to the developing fetus if this method fails.

How Much Does Emergency Contraception Cost?

Emergency contraception is available by prescription for anyone under age 18. It may be obtained from certain doctors, clinics, and pharmacies; prices range from $30-$100 or more depending on if an appointment is necessary.

What About Emergency Contraception and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s)?

Emergency Contraception does NOT provide protection against the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.

Last Updated: 12/2006

Compiled using information from the following sources:

William’s Obstetrics Twenty-Second Ed. Cunningham, F. Gary, et al, Ch. 32.

Danforth’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Ninth Ed. Scott, James R., et al, Ch. 30.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, http://www.fda.gov/