Emergency Contraception Guide: Details, Ways & Facts

Now we all might end up having unprotected sex once in our lives; However, it doesn’t seem like much of a good idea, especially, when you know you might catch some random STI or worse… having a baby bump when you’re so not ready for it!

Speaking of baby bumps… Contraception is your best friend when it comes to NOT WANTING TO GET PREGNANT but what happens when you’re not using any of the regular methods?

Well… you may then say hello to ECP (Emergency contraceptive pill) which is also called the morning-after pill or the day-after pill.

First of all, let’s take a sneak peek on contraception as a whole…

Here is the thing… Regular contraception comes in a lot of methods, So there is:

1/ Barrier Methods

  • male condoms.
  • female condoms
  • diaphragms.

2/ Hormonal Methods

  • combined oral contraceptives (The pill)
  • progestin-only pills (POPs).
  • contraceptive patch
  • injectable birth control
  • vaginal rings
  • implantable rods

3/ Intrauterine Methods

  • a copper IUD
  • a hormonal IUD
  • sterilization
  • a sterilization implant
  • tubal ligation
  • vasectomy

One of the most known methods is ‘the pill’ and Pops methods of course. The pill is basically a combination of synthetic estrogens and progestin. These synthetic hormones are given to interfere with the ovulation process. Regular contraceptive pills come also in a slightly different combination which is progestin-only pills (Called POPs).

POPs work on thickening the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to swim into the uterus or to enter the fallopian tube. They eventually alter the normal cyclical changes in the uterine lining and may result in unscheduled or breakthrough bleeding.

Both types of pills should be taken once a day every day likely at the same time.


What is an emergency contraceptive pill (ECP)?

It’s the kind of contraception you use to avoid pregnancy after unprotected sex. However, you should not be misled by the name, just because it’s called morning-after or day-after pill doesn’t mean you have to wait one day after you have sex; you should actually use it right after sex (up to five days right after sex–depending on the brand).

Are there different types of ECPs?

There are two different types of morning-after pills in the United States:

  1. Progestin-only (as in plan-b, one step, next choice, my way, and take action brands)
  2. Ulipristal acetate (as in Ella brand)

How does each one work?

Ella to begin with works by preventing ovulation, even during the time in your cycle when you’re most fertile, for five full days following unprotected sex. That’s important because sperm can live for five days in a woman’s reproductive tract.

Plan B on the other side works by:

  • Temporarily stopping the release of an egg from the ovary
  • Preventing fertilization
  • Preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus


Ella reduces the risk of pregnancy by 98 percent. It is equally effective regardless of which day it is taken.

Plan B is 89 percent effective for all women who take the pills within the first three days. Taking the pill within the first 24 hours may increase effectiveness to as much as 95 percent.

Does it affect your period?

ECPs don’t have severe affections on your period, however, some women may experience a delay and it’s totally normal. Also, your period may be heavier, lighter, or more spotty than normal.

Can anyone use it?

Almost any woman can use the ECP, even the ones who cannot usually use hormonal contraception, such as the combined pill and contraceptive patch.

Girls aged less than 16 years old can also use the morning-after pill.

Drug interaction

The morning after pill may interact with other medicines like some medicines used to treat epilepsy, HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and medication such as omeprazole (an antacid).

Side effects

The most common side effects of Ella are abdominal pain, cramping, and irregular bleeding. In a few cases, women have experienced headaches and nausea.

The most common side effects of Plan-B are Dizziness, breast tenderness, nausea, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

Where can I get ECPs?

Online, you can find some good brands such as ‘Ella’ at most Planned Parenthood Locations, Clinics, Family Planning Clinics, Urgent Care Centers, Student Health Centers or Campus Health Centers and Emergency Rooms.

Progestin-only pills such as plan-B are available over the counter without a prescription for those 17 and over (and by prescription for younger women).

In what situations can I use ECPs?

You can use pills in the following situations:

  • no contraception was used
  • missed birth control pills, patch, or ring
  • the condom slipped, broke, or leaked
  • the diaphragm or cervical cap is dislodged during sexual intercourse or was removed too early
  • error in the calculation of the fertility period
  • sexual assault or rape

Does my weight affect the functionality of ECPs?

Ella is a brand that works well no matter what you weigh. However, having a body mass index (BMI) that’s higher than 35 might make it a little less effective.

If Ella’s not an available option for you; brands like Plan B, One-Step or Next Choice, and One Dose are still convenient choices unless you have a body mass index (BMI) that’s higher than 30.

Can you use ECPs in advance?

It is possible in the following situations:

  • If you are worried about your contraceptive method failing
  • If you are going on holiday
  • If you cannot get hold of emergency contraception easily

Are there other types?

Yes. There is The IUD (An intrauterine device). IUD is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device made from plastic and copper. It’s inserted into the uterus by a trained health professional.

It may prevent an egg from implanting in your womb or being fertilized. The IUD can be inserted up to five days afterward, or up to five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated, to prevent pregnancy.

It’s known to be the most effective way to prevent a pregnancy not to mention that it can last up to 12 years.

Extra facts

  • EC methods don’t protect against STIs
  • taking the morning-after pill over and over again is more expensive than being on a regular method of birth control. ( You better be on a regular contraceptive method if you’re on a long term relationship)
  • the number of pills in a dose is different for each pill brand, and not all brands can be used for EC.
  • about 8 in 100 women who have unprotected sex one time during the fertile part of their cycle will become pregnant.
  • studies have been done with women who did not know they were pregnant and kept taking regular birth control pills. These studies have found no greater risk of birth defects.
  • the pills don’t cause abortion and they’re completely different from abortion pills.

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