How to take emergency contraceptive pills

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How to Take Emergency Contraceptive Pills

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Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if your regular birth control method has failed. ECPs can be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after sex. However, they are most effective when taken within the first 24 hours.

There are two types of ECPs:

Levonorgestrel-only ECPs (Plan B One-Step, Next Choice One Dose) These pills contain the hormone levonorgestrel, which works by preventing ovulation. They are available over-the-counter at pharmacies and some other retail stores.

Ulipristal acetate ECPs (Ella) This pill contains the hormone ulipristal acetate, which works by preventing or delaying ovulation. It is available by prescription only.

How to Take ECPs

ECPs are taken orally, with or without food. It is important to take the pills exactly as directed.

Levonorgestrel-only ECPs:

Take one pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex, but no later than 5 days (120 hours) after sex.

If you vomit within 2 hours of taking the pill, you should take another pill.

Ulipristal acetate ECPs:

Take one pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex, but no later than 5 days (120 hours) after sex.

You do not need to take another pill if you vomit after taking ulipristal acetate.

Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs)

Emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) are a safe and effective way to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if your regular birth control method has failed. ECPs can be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after sex. However, they are most effective when taken within the first 24 hours.

How ECPs Work

ECPs work by preventing or delaying ovulation. Ovulation is the release of an egg from the ovary. If an egg is not released, it cannot be fertilized by sperm and pregnancy cannot occur.

ECPs contain hormones that work in different ways to prevent ovulation. Some ECPs contain the hormone levonorgestrel, which works by preventing the release of luteinizing hormone (LH). LH is a hormone that triggers ovulation. Other ECPs contain the hormone ulipristal acetate, which works by binding to progesterone receptors and preventing the release of an egg.

How to Take ECPs

ECPs are taken orally, with or without food. It is important to take the pills exactly as directed.

Levonorgestrel-only ECPs:

Take one pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex, but no later than 5 days (120 hours) after sex.

If you vomit within 2 hours of taking the pill, you should take another pill.

Ulipristal acetate ECPs:

Take one pill as soon as possible after unprotected sex, but no later than 5 days (120 hours) after sex.

You do not need to take another pill if you vomit after taking ulipristal acetate.

Side Effects of ECPs

ECPs are generally safe and well-tolerated. However, some women may experience side effects, such as:

Nausea

Vomiting

Abdominal pain

Headache

Fatigue

Breast tenderness

Irregular bleeding

These side effects usually go away within a few days. If you experience any severe side effects, such as heavy bleeding or severe abdominal pain, you should see a doctor.

ECPs and Regular Birth Control

ECPs are not a substitute for regular birth control. If you are sexually active, you should use a regular method of birth control, such as condoms, birth control pills, or an IUD. ECPs should only be used as a backup method of birth control.

Where to Get ECPs

ECPs are available over-the-counter at pharmacies and some other retail stores. You can also get ECPs from your doctor or family planning clinic.

Important Information

ECPs are not 100% effective. They are most effective when taken within the first 24 hours after unprotected sex. The effectiveness of ECPs decreases the longer you wait to take them.

ECPs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If you have unprotected sex, you should get tested for STIs.

If you have any questions about ECPs, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Additional Information

[Emergency Contraception (EC)](https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/ec/index.htm) - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[Emergency Contraception](https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/morning-after-pill-emergency-contraception) - Planned Parenthood

[The Morning-After Pill](https://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/the-morning-after-pill) - WebMD

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