Emergency Contraception

What is emergency contraception (EC)?
Emergency contraception can be used to prevent a pregnancy from occurring. There are 2 methods of emergency contraception
  • Oral medication (2 options) taken within 5 days of unprotected intercourse
    • Plan B® (levonorgestrel) or
    • Ella® (ulipristal acetate)
  • Copper-IUD inserted within 7 days of unprotected intercourse

Plan B® (levonorgestrel) and Ella® (ulipristal acetate) are not abortion pills and will have no effect if you are already pregnant. 

How does emergency contraception work?
You can get emergency contraception at most pharmacies without a prescription or at the Sexual Health Centre.

Emergency contraception contains the hormone progestin and works by:

  • Delaying the release of an egg from the ovaries
Who can use emergency contraception?
Almost every woman can use emergency contraception. Even women who cannot use birth control pills containing estrogen can use Plan B® (levonorgestrel) or Ella® (ulipristal acetate) because there is no estrogen in these medications. If you know or think you are pregnant, you should not use emergency contraception.
How do I use emergency contraception?
Take one tablet as soon as possible after unprotected sex or as directed by the doctor/nurse. If you vomit within one hour of taking the dose, you will need to retake the medication.
What are the advantages and possible side effects of emergency contraception?

Advantages

  • Emergency contraception is very safe for most women
  • Emergency contraception will prevent three out of four pregnancies
  • Emergency contraception will do no harm to an already existing pregnancy

Possible side effects

Some women may experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, breast tenderness, headache, or menstrual changes related to hormone intake.

Remember

  • Notify your health care provider or take a home pregnancy test if you do not get your menstrual period within 21 days of using oral emergency contraception
  • For those taking birth control, use a back-up method such as condoms for the rest of the cycle.
  • Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STBBIs) or HIV
  • Oral emergency contraception should only be used as a back-up method of birth control, discuss future contraceptive needs with your health care provider
  • For additional information or assistance contact the province wide Aids and Sexual Health Infoline at Toll free: 1 (800) 668-2437
  • For more information on the emergency contraception, please consult the following Web sites: Plan B or Ella Now
What is Plan B® (levonorgestrel)?
Plan B® contains the hormone progestin and works by:
  • Delaying the release of an egg from the ovaries

You can get emergency contraception at most pharmacies without a prescription or at the Sexual Health Centre.

Plan B® works best when taken as soon as possible after unprotected sexual contact, preferably within 72 hours but has some effectiveness up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sexual contact.

Plan B® may not be as effective in women with a BMI≥25. However, EC pills may be effective regardless of weight or BMI

What is Ella® (ulipristal acetate)?
Ella® is a pill that acts on the hormone progestin to delay the release of an egg from the ovary.

Ella® is available at most pharmacies by prescription only.

Ella® can be used by women for emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected intercourse.

Ella® may not be as effective in women with a BMI≥35. However, EC pills may be effective regardless of weight or BMI

What is a copper IUD?
A copper IUD can be inserted within 7 days of unprotected intercourse.

Please visit 'Intrauterine Devices' for further information or discuss with your health care provider.

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