Understanding Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception. We’ve all heard that name, and may know someone who has used it, but what exactly is it? If you’ve ever been a little confused, you’re not alone. There are so many misconceptions about what emergency contraception is and how it works. For a lot of young women, paying that $50 to prevent a pregnancy can be a lot of money when they don’t really understand what exactly they’re paying for. Thankfully, understanding how the emergency contraception pill works isn’t too difficult when factual information is available! Here’s what every young person needs to know about emergency contraception.



What is emergency contraception, and how does it work?

Emergency contraception (EC) is a high dose of hormones in pill form that is taken after the risk of an unintended pregnancy, like a condom breaking. The hormones in the pill cause multiple reactions in the woman’s body in order to prevent a pregnancy. Taking EC thickens cervical mucus, making it much more difficult for sperm to get through, as well as making it difficult for a fertilized egg to implant on the uterine wall.


When should EC be taken?

This is one of the most important elements of using EC effectively. EC is only effective when taken within five days of unprotected sex, preferably within the first 72 hours. The sooner it’s taken, the more effective it is. Because sperm can live in the body for up to five days, it’s important to take it sooner than later. If the five day mark has been passed, using EC will be ineffective.


EC is not a regular birth control method.

EC should only be used when the primary birth control method, like condoms or the hormonal birth control pill, has failed. EC is a backup contraceptive! Using it as a primary method could lead to serious side effects.


EC has no effect if the person is already pregnant.

Despite claims, nothing will happen if the person taking EC is already pregnant. The hormones will run through their body without affecting the pregnancy.


Where can I find EC?

EC is available at pharmacies, drugstores, and some health clinics. Call ahead to ensure it’s availability.


EC doesn’t prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

Like primary hormonal birth control methods, EC is only used to prevent unintended pregnancies and will not prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

As mentioned, emergency contraception is not a primary form of birth control and should only be used as a back up. If you have more questions or concerns, talk to your doctor for personalized information.